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Woman pleads guilty in 2013 Salt Lake shootout with police

Published February 27, 2014 9:02 pm

Courts • She also admits to robbery; other charges dropped.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A 41-year-old woman accused of committing a series of crimes throughout the Salt Lake Valley pleaded guilty Thursday to two of the 13 charges against her.

The rest were dismissed.

Sandra Chotia-Thompson will be sentenced in April for attempted aggravated murder and aggravated robbery in connection with a January robbery that led to a shootout with a Murray police officer in the parking lot of a Family Dollar Store.

She faces up to life in prison for each count.

The long-awaited resolution came as a result of months of negotiations between prosecutors and Chotia-Thompson's attorneys.

Charging documents allege that Chotia-Thompson was one half of a duo who committed a slew of robberies throughout the Salt Lake Valley from December 2012 to January 2013.

Her partner, 38-year-old Kelly Fay Simons, was shot dead by officers when she tried to run them down with her pickup.

Charges allege Chotia-Thompson committed holdups at The Grocery Store in Salt Lake City, a Scaddy's Restaurant and the Family Dollar store in Murray.

But search warrants show police also investigated crimes at eight more businesses that Chotia-Thompson and Simons were accused of robbing or attempting to rob.

The women wore wigs, masks, oversized trench coats, gloves and hats to conceal their identities as they committed the heists, 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.

In each case, one woman would enter the store in disguise, order something at the counter or make her way to the cashier. As an employee rang her up, the suspect would pull a gun, demand money be put in a bag, then run to a getaway car.

Similar robberies were reported at a McDonald's at 1533 S. State St., a US Bank branch at 2243 E. 2100 South, Baskin-Robbins at 1465 E. 2100 South, Alchemy Coffee at 390 E. 1700 South, Red Mango yogurt shop at 1511 E. 2100 South, the Yogurt Shop at 2153 E. 2100 South, Movies 10 in Sugar House and Sconecutter at 2040 S. State St.

In the incident outside the Family Dollar Store, on Jan. 5, 2013, about 6:20 p.m., Chotia-Thompson was the getaway driver in a heist that ended with her partner shooting at a police officer.

Because she was a party to the shooting, said Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill, she was charged with attempted aggravated murder.

According to police, the officer tailed one of the women to a car in which the other was seated. He had seen one of them trying to enter the store and grew suspicious.

Chotia-Thomspon, the driver, pointed a red laser marker at him, Gill said, while Simons turned around and fired several shots in his direction.

Both women fled the area on foot after the gray car they had tried to escape in would not start.

Later that evening, a man who lives nearby reported two people stealing his car at gunpoint.

Simons was killed four days later by officers near Liberty Park.

Inside the truck, police later discovered bullets, cartridges and a clown mask believed to have been used in the holdups.

Upon searching a trailer the women shared, police said, officers found three wigs and a black ski mask.

Inside the sedan that Chotia-Thompson was accused of driving in several of the crimes, police purportedly found slugs, a gun holster, bank receipts, checkbooks, ski masks, jackets, gloves, hats, binoculars, wigs, bolt cutters, needles, a syringe and jackets.

Chotia-Thompson was originally charged with first-degree felony attempted aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and four counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of 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.

She has remained in custody at the Salt Lake County Jail for more than a year.

This story has been changed to reflect a clarification that cleared up which of the women had been driving and which had been shooting during the incident for which Sandra Chotia-Thompson was charged with attempted aggravated murder.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae