A Tacoma woman could face life in prison without the possibility of parole after she allegedly used pepper spray on a store manager who tried to stop her from shoplifting.
Debra Genia Marzette, 50, pleaded not guilty Monday in Pierce County Superior Court to one count of first-degree robbery, which is considered a strike under Washington’s “three strikes you’re out” law.
Prosecutors wrote in charging papers that Marzette might qualify for life in prison because she has two strikes on her record: another first-degree robbery conviction from Washington and a first-degree burglary conviction from Oregon.
She’s been ordered jailed in lieu of $150,000 bail.
The latest case against her began April 7.
According to court records, that’s when a woman walked into a Tacoma Walgreens store, loaded several items, including a package of diapers, into a shopping basket and tried to walk out without paying.
The store’s manager, who suspected the woman might be up to no good, had positioned herself at the front entrance. The manager told the woman she needed to pay for the merchandise in the basket, the records show.
“The suspect continued to try to walk past (the manager) who grabbed hold of the basket,” charging papers state. “A short tug of war followed, and then the suspect pulled out a black aerosol spray canister and sprayed (the manager) in the face.”
Some items spilled out of the basket, including a package of diapers, as the would-be thief fled to a Ford Mustang waiting outside. The Mustang drove away.
The manager then called police.
Police officers spotted the Mustang the next day, stopped it and interviewed the driver, a local man with a history of arrests. He told them he’d given a woman named “Deborah” a ride to the Walgreens the day before and waited in the car while she went inside. He said she returned not long after and told him, “They called the cops.”
“He drove away not knowing exactly what this meant but later assumed there was some kind of trouble,” court records show.
Investigators later lifted a fingerprint from the diaper package and identified it as coming from Marzette, the records state. A detective who later viewed video surveillance said the suspect appeared to be Marzette.
Tacoma police tracked her down and arrested her Saturday.Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644