All in a Day's Work: Shoplifting Arrest Turns to Topless Wrestling Match at OKC Mall

Sometimes, things just don't turn out the way you expected. Saturday was such a day for a shoplifter, a Penn Square Mall security guard, a store manager, and dozens of shoppers who witnessed a bizarre scene unfold. Reports say Heather Lynn Hall, 41, also known in court records as Heather Fennel, was attempting to shoplift merchandise from The Buckle in Penn Square Mall. When she was approached by a mall security guard, she wrestled out of her shirt in an attempt to evade apprehension, and the guard and the topless woman struggled on the floor for several minutes before an Oklahoma City police officer arrived and arrested the shoplifting suspect. According to a police report, Hall told police that she blamed her shoplifting on drug addiction. Police indicate that the woman has at least four prior arrests for larceny from a retailer. Additionally, an Oklahoma court records search shows that the woman has received several deferred sentences in Oklahoma County and Cleveland County. Her prior record includes the following offenses:

  • Simple possession of oxycodone (felony) - 1 year deferred sentence in 2007, including mandatory AA meetings four times a month during that year
  • Unauthorized use of a vehicle (felony) - 2 year deferred sentence in 2008
  • Larceny from a retailer (misdemeanor) - 1 year deferred sentence in 2010, but updated to a conviction the following year when the defendant failed to pay restitution or probation costs as ordered
  • Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance/cocaine base (felony) and possession of drug paraphernalia - 5 year deferred sentence in 2010
Often, drug addiction and shoplifting go hand-in-hand. Fueled by addiction and a need to get more drugs, many addicts turn to simple theft to get the money required to buy the painkillers, narcotics, and illegal drugs their addiction demands. Last month, the United States Supreme Court rejected the appeal of an Oklahoma woman sentenced to life in prison for shoplifting. Cecilia Cathleen Rodriguez was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 after rejecting a plea that would have given her a sentence of 17 years. The Oklahoma Attorney General said that Rodriguez's life sentence was not about her theft of two purses from a Dillard's store, but rather the 28 prior convictions that led the sentencing judge to call her a "one-person crime wave." Rodriguez's attorney argued that his client's long history of theft could be tied to her heroin addiction. He noted that prison clearly wasn't the solution to stopping the thefts, but rather treatment for her addiction would be the best outcome. Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott was unmoved by the story of an addict who was caring for her elderly mother and living on disability and food stamps. He called her the "poster child" for why thieves should be incarcerated, saying, "It’s past time to say, ’Enough is enough.’ She needs to be warehoused for the rest of her life." But when is enough enough? Hall told police that people should be sympathetic to her mental health issues. Rodriguez's mother calls her a "good girl" who "has a problem." Is it reasonable to lock up these repeat offenders for prolonged sentences, or should we instead try to solve the root problem of addiction through extensive treatment, counseling, and supervision?

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