Police: Second robbery suspect did one last crime before surrender
Just hours after her purported partner in another armed robbery was shot to death by police, Sandra Chotia-Thompson allegedly committed one last holdup.
Chotia-Thompson is the prime suspect in a 6:10 p.m. Wednesday robbery at The Grocery Store, 1224 S. 400 East, in Salt Lake City.
Four hours later, Chotia-Thompson was arrested without a struggle perhaps after learning that Kelly Fay Simons, 38,her alleged female accomplice in a weekend Murray robbery and a series of others going back to late last year had been shot and killed in a confrontation with the Joint Criminal Apprehension Team (JCAT) earlier that day.
Salt Lake City police Detective Mike Hamideh said Chotia-Thompson and Simons are now considered "likely suspects in six to nine robberies" going back to mid-December, in which Simons is thought to have dressed as a male to disguise herself.
"They were escalating their robberies both in the level of violence and frequency. Some robberies were almost committed one after the other," Hamideh said.
Police said Chotia-Thompson, 40, displayed a firearm as she demanded cash from The Grocery Store clerk and then fled.
Meanwhile, multiple law enforcement officers had been following various leads on Chotia-Thompson's whereabouts.
"One lead we pursued was trying to call her," Hamideh said, noting investigators had obtained her cellphone number. "We reached her."
While police talked with Chotia-Thompson, investigators were able to trace her location to a parking lot at the Smith's store at 455 S. 600 East.
"She was pretty distraught on the phone," Hamideh said, though he declined to say whether her angst was related to having learned of Simons' death. "Ultimately, [Chotia-Thompson] was contacted by an officer in the parking lot and taken into custody without incident."
A probable-cause statement filed at Salt Lake County jail stated that Chotia-Thompson was "wearing the same clothing described in the [Grocery Store] robbery [a plaid hooded jacket, gloves, scarf and blue jeans] and a handgun was located on her person."
Steve Regan, who owns The Grocery Store, said his employee saw a woman approach the shop's door, which is always locked at night as an added security precaution. He said the woman had her face covered and her head turned slightly to the side, but because it was cold outside no one thought anything of it.
"The fact that she was female made it so that the [employee] there had a little bit of trust," Regan said.
After the clerk let the woman inside, the woman opened her jacket, showed a gun, demanded money and fled with $40, he said.
After learning police suspected that the robber was Chotia-Thompson, Regan said he recognized her as someone he'd occasionally seen around the neighborhood. He said she might have actually shopped at his store prior to Wednesday's robbery.
Simons was killed about 12:15 p.m. Wednesday by a member of the JCAT unit attempting to serve an arrest warrant near 800 East and 900 South, said JCAT Commander Jim Phelps.
The officer fired four shots, striking Simons, when she allegedly tried to run over officers with a white pickup truck.
Chotia-Thompson and Simons had been sought in the Saturday night robbery of Scaddy's restaurant at 5430 S. 900 East in Murray. About 20 minutes after the robbery, a Murray police officer spotted the suspect now believed to have been Simons disguised as a man in a top hat and "Groucho Marx"-style mask at a Family Dollar store at 6160 S. 1300 East.
An exchange of gunfire followed. No one was injured, but the robber and a woman waiting inside a nearby car took off on foot down the street, running into an open garage where they took a car from the resident and drove away, evading police.
Murray police spokesman Kenny Bass said officers had recovered the stolen car before the shooting Wednesday.
Utah court records show Chotia-Thompson lived in Salt Lake City in 2010. Her record includes two misdemeanor drug possession counts, to which she entered pleas in abeyance, and some traffic offenses.
Simons' record, going back to 1999, includes numerous traffic citations and four drug-related misdemeanors.
Chotia-Thompson was being held Thursday without bail on suspicion of first-degree felony aggravated robbery and one class B misdemeanor count of possession of a controlled substance.
Wednesday's JCAT shooting of Simons was the first fatal officer-involved shooting of the new year. On Tuesday, Murray police shot and wounded a suicidal man when he pointed a BB pistol replica at them.
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Scott Simons can't reconcile the woman in police reports with his beloved daughter. âº B2