It was only two bottles of alcohol, but coupled with a long criminal history of shoplifting to feed a growing addiction, a judge sentenced a Payson woman to three years of probation Monday.
Amanda Jean Howard, 25, wiped tears from her eyes after pleading guilty to shoplifting two bottles of Southern Comfort worth $35.98 from Safeway.
Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill asked Howard why he should only give her probation.
“I think probation would get me on the right track,” she said.
Howard’s struggle to get on the right track has been mired with drug and alcohol abuse since her teens. In a pre-sentencing report, a probation officer writes that Howard recognizes that the underlying cause of her criminal behavior is linked to these chronic addictions.
On June 1, Howard and Airin Knorr went into Safeway and grabbed two bottles of Southern Comfort. When a manager spotted them, they placed the bottles back on the shelf. However, when the manager went to help another customer, Knorr grabbed the bottles and ran out.
When officers came to Howard’s home later, she admitted they stole the alcohol so they could get drunk.
Knorr later pleaded guilty to shoplifting.
For Howard, this was not the first time police had arrested her for shoplifting.
Howard has previously pleaded guilty to five other shoplifting incidents, one theft, three disorderly conduct charges, trespassing, criminal damage and consuming liquor in public.
Howard’s addiction also spilled over into her home life. Howard has three children ranging in age from 6 to 3. Child Protective Services took the children away when Howard missed a dependency hearing.
Nanci Stone, vice president of the Rim Guidance Center, said addiction affects all areas of a person’s life.
“When you are under the influence of any chemical, it impacts the way you think and how you view your world,” she said. “When under the influence of drugs or a substance, you tend not to make the best decisions.”
Only when the addiction is addressed can life improve.
“When you are under influence of addiction, your whole thought process is getting the next fix or getting another shot and that is where all your energy goes,” Stone said. “When that stops, you can start attending to your family, your job and even your education.”
In a pre-sentencing report, a probation officer writes Howard is stagnant in her life with no job, continued use of drugs and alcohol and relying on others for financial support.
“Simply said, this defendant lacks any meaning or direction in her life, and is merely floundering around having no concern or compassion for anybody or anything, but herself,” a probation officer writes.
“The merchants are paying the price of your addiction,” Cahill said.
Howard’s attorney, Ronald DeBrigida, said hopefully this latest sentencing would help Howard turn a corner in her life.
Howard admitted to probation officials that chronic abuse of alcohol is directly linked to her criminal behavior.
Additionally, Howard says she has a lengthy history of abusing meth since she was 16.
Under the terms of the sentencing, Howard must complete an alcohol/substance abuse screening within 60 days and undergo any treatment recommended by her probation officer.
When an addict finally gets help and enters recovery, Stone said the change is remarkable.
“When you see them in recovery they are a totally different person you cannot believe the change it makes in them,” she said.
“When you are in the throws of addiction your focus is on continuing use so you don’t have to deal with what is bothering you.”
Cahill ordered Howard to serve three years of probation, pay $806 as well as a $65 monthly probation service fe