Robbery suspect faces new charges
A 40-year-old woman now faces charges for five, not three, armed robberies and an additional attempted armed robbery from an alleged two-month spree throughout the Salt Lake Valley.
Sandra Chotia-Thompson was charged Wednesday in 3rd District Court with attempted aggravated robbery, a second-degree felony, for trying to hold-up a US Bank branch on Dec. 20. She was also charged Tuesday with two counts of aggravated robbery, one for a hold-up of a Baskin Robbins across from Sugar House Park on the same day, and another for a yogurt shop robbery at 2153 E. 2100 South in January.
She will make her first appearances for the new charges next week.
Chotia-Thompson was previously charged with 10 counts, including three robbery charges and an attempted aggravated murder charge. The old charges allege Chotia-Thompson committed holdups at The Grocery Store in Salt Lake City, a Scaddy's Restaurant and a Family Dollar Store in Murray, crimes that included stealing a vehicle, fleeing from police and shooting at a Murray police officer.
She is scheduled to make her next court appearance in connection with the other charges on July 22.
Search warrants obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this year showed police were investigating eight other robberies that Chotia-Thompson and her alleged partner-in-crime, Kelly Fay Simons, 38, were suspected of pulling or attempting to pull.
The new charges this week including three of those heists, though none mentions Simons, who was shot dead by officers on Jan. 9 near Liberty Park when she allegedly tried to run down an officer with her pickup.
On Dec. 20, the assistant manager of the US Bank branch at 2243 E. 2100 South noticed the suspect in the front foyer and closed the door so that the suspect could not enter.
The same day, Chotia-Thompson walked into the Baskin Robbins and ordered a scoop of ice cream, asked for change for a $10 bill, then pulled a revolver, according to the charges. The suspect ordered the employee to put all the money in the register into a bag, then ran off with both the ice cream and the money.
The robbery of the yogurt shop on Jan. 1, went similarly, according to those charges.
The suspect at US Bank was wearing a gray trench coat, a short-brimmed hat and a disguise combining glasses, a nose and a moustache. In the Baskin Robbins robbery, Choita-Thompson allegedly wore a fedora, a long grey plaid coat, grey gloves, costume make-up and a black and white wig, according to the charges. During the yogurt shop robbery, police say she sported a green raincoat, black beanie, green and blue scarf and orange gardening gloves.
A Salt Lake City police detective found that the suspect used the same getaway car in both cases. Chotia-Thompson's mother told the police that she gave her daughter that car.
The modus operandi rings similar to the other crimes in Chotia-Thompson and Simons' alleged spree. The women would wear wigs, masks, oversized trench coats, gloves and hats to conceal their identities as they committed the heists, the warrants state. Because of this, reports varied: Some witnesses described the robbers as young men, others as old men, others still as women in costume.
Upon searching a trailer the women shared, police found three wigs and a black ski mask, documents say. In the tan sedan that Chotia-Thompson is accused of driving during most of the spree, police reportedly found bullet slugs, a gun holster, bank receipts, checkbooks, ski masks, jackets, gloves, hats, binoculars, wigs, bolt cutters, needles, a syringe and jackets.
Besides the two robberies Chotia-Thompson was charged with on Tuesday, police say similar heists were executed at a McDonald's at 1533 S. State St., a US Bank branch at 2243 E. 2100 South, Alchemy Coffee at 390 E. 1700 South, Red Mango yogurt shop at 1511 E. 2100 South, Movies 10 in Sugar House and Sconecutter at 2040 S. State St.
Prosecutors are screening potential charges against Chotia-Thompson from one of those robberies. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said he anticipates that would be the last robbery charge leveled against her.
If convicted on any one of most of her charges, including the two new ones, Chotia-Thompson could spend up to life in prison. She has been charged with first-degree felony attempted aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and three counts of aggravated robbery, second-degree felony attempted aggravated robbery, third-degree felony attempted theft and tampering with evidence, and misdemeanor failure to respond to an officer and failure to stop at an officer's command.
Prosecutors may end up lumping the old and new charges into one case.
"Once we start having a defendant with multiple cases, we will try to consolidate those cases and assign them to one prosecutor so that we can properly handle any issues that arise," Gill said.
The defense has said plea negotiations are ongoing. Though Gill did not speak to Chotia-Thompson's case specifically, he added that in general "it's not atypical in cases like this to see if we can reach some sort of global resolution. That's always something that's an ongoing process."
Reporter Marissa Lang contributed to this story.