A Pine woman said she let her emotions get the best of her when she planted a stink bomb in the Ponderosa Market over Memorial Day weekend.
Ann Debra “Deb” Schwalm, 59, admitted that on May 23, she entered the market with a box of Betty Crocker pastry mix with skunk oil inside and concealed it on the market’s shelves.
The odor quickly permeated the store, offending customers and employees, some of who complained of nausea, said store owner Cindy Maack.
For the next three days, Maack and employees searched everywhere in the store for the source of the odor, but could find nothing. Finally, Maack’s husband discovered the suspicious box, a brand of mix the store does not carry, hidden among other boxes of cake mix.
Inside, the Maack’s found three bags of “disgusting” looking liquid.
It took Maack hours to review store video surveillance and find the culprit.
At 11:43 a.m. on a Friday, a woman entered with a large bag and placed something on the shelf where the odor was found. At first, Maack didn’t know who the woman was. Someone later identified her as Schwalm.
Maack realized Schwalm had placed the box just after her husband Sam Schwalm lost election to the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District board.
Maack had been a vocal critic of Sam Schwalm’s role in the contentious politics of the water board.
“We just couldn’t believe it,” Maack said. “We thought she was like an upstanding citizen.”
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office investigated and turned the information over to the Gila County Attorney’s Office.
Maack said she did not think Schwalm needed to go to jail.
On Aug. 16, Schwalm wrote a letter of apology to Maack, taking full responsibility.
“I should not have let my emotions get the best of me,” Schwalm wrote. “There are no excuses for my behavior. I fully understand the seriousness and impact that has had on you, your business, your employees and the community members that patronized your store during that time. I will stay away from your store as I do not want to cause any further worry.”
Maack questioned the sincerity of the apology, saying it was written in a weird font.
Still, Schwalm will not face criminal charges if she follows through with a diversion agreement she reached with the GCAO. Schwalm admitted her involvement, agreed to complete 40 hours of community service, pay financial restitution, write an apology letter, be supervised by a GCAO diversion officer for six months and pay a monthly fee, said Shawn Fuller, chief deputy county attorney.
If she fails to complete any of these, she could be prosecuted, Fuller said.
Schwalm could not be reached for comment.