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Charges: Woman's robbery spree stopped by ex-husband

By Tom Olsen Forum News Service DULUTH, Minn. -- A woman's gas station robbery spree was thwarted by her ex-husband, who wrestled with her for control of her car's steering wheel and called police after she held up stores in Duluth and Proctor, a...

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Lanaya Kristine Thiel

By Tom Olsen

Forum News Service

 

DULUTH, Minn. - A woman's gas station robbery spree was thwarted by her ex-husband, who wrestled with her for control of her car's steering wheel and called police after she held up stores in Duluth and Proctor, according to charges filed Wednesday.

Authorities said 44-year-old Lanaya Kristine Thiel robbed a Kwik Trip store in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood, hit up the Holiday Stationstore in Proctor, Minn., and had her sights set on the Scanlon, Minn., Kwik Trip as she traveled down Interstate 35.

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But her passenger - and ex-husband - Robert Wickham thought better of the plan, preventing Thiel from exiting at Scanlon and instead convincing her to go to Black Bear Casino, where he summoned police, according to the charges.

Thiel, who has no permanent address, was arraigned Wednesday in State District Court in Duluth on two felony charges of aggravated second-degree robbery.

A motive for the robberies was not clear and Thiel apparently does not have any criminal history. But Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Kristen Swanson described the alleged acts as "brazen."

"The defendant is charged with two separate robberies of gas stations in the Duluth area in the matter of a few hours," she said in a bail recommendation. "The state has substantial concern for public safety given the defendant's criminal activity occurred in the presence of many bystanders, the threats of violence that accompanied the robberies, and the fact she intended to commit a third robbery but was thwarted by her ex-husband."

Each robbery charge carries a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Sixth Judicial District Judge David Johnson set bail at $25,000 and scheduled Thiel's next court appearance for Sept. 23.

According to the criminal complaint, Duluth police officers were called to the Kwik Trip store at 2715 W. Michigan St. just before 10:30 p.m. Sunday on the report of a robbery.

Witnesses said a woman approached the counter with her hand in her pocket, demanding money from a clerk and stating something to the effect of, "I will shoot you." She also turned to another employee who was on the phone and ordered him to "put the phone down and get on the ground."

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The woman grabbed the cash register, removing $161, and swiped a box of donuts on her way out of the store, according to witnesses.

About three hours later, Proctor police officers were dispatched to the Holiday Stationstore at 9314 W. Skyline Parkway on a robbery report.

An employee said he was working at the till when a woman entered the store and demanded money. The woman had her left hand inside her jacket pocket, "like she was holding a gun," he reported. The woman was given money from the till and fled.

While Duluth and Proctor police were investigating the incidents, the Fond du Lac Police Department was called to Black Bear Casino near Carlton, where a man said he wanted to provide information regarding his ex-wife.

Wickham told the officer that Thiel had robbed the stores. He described watching her enter the Proctor Holiday and "come out running with her hands full of cash, which she threw into the vehicle."

Thiel got into the car, in which Wickham was a passenger, and was heading toward Cloquet, Minn., when she announced that she wanted to rob the Scanlon store.

Wickham said he responded by grabbing hold of the steering wheel, preventing her from taking the exit, and was punched by her twice. Wickham was eventually able to convince Thiel to stop at the casino, where he called 911.

Officers noted that clothing found in the car appeared to match the description of the female from the Duluth and Proctor robberies. An employee of the Kwik Trip store was shown a photo lineup and also identified her.

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Thiel was arrested and booked into the St. Louis County Jail.

Related Topics: CRIME
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