Guilty plea in gas attack case

Tara
Tara Bradbury
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Woman admits to armed robberies, threatening to set girls on fire

Dawn Marie Power

Dawn Marie Power fidgeted as she sat in provincial court Thursday afternoon, listening to statements made by two teenage girls she threatened to set on fire during an armed robbery at a pharmacy last month.

Power, 30, pleaded guilty to charges relating to the armed robbery of PharmaChoice on Burgeo Street in the Cowan Heights area of the city — as well as to charges related to a second armed robbery, committed just hours before she was arrested.

The court was shown a surveillance video from the pharmacy, in which Power and a man, both wearing black clothes, sunglasses, and with their hoods pulled tight around their faces, were seen storming into the drug store.

The man threw a Gatorade-type bottle of gasoline at the two young clerks, then headed towards the pharmacist working at the back of the store.

Power, brandishing a crowbar and a knife, climbed up onto the counter and forced the girls to lie face-down on the floor, their hands on their heads, before taking money from the till and putting it into a plastic bag. Power told the girls she had a lighter — although she didn’t — and threatened to set them on fire.

While Power was at the front of the store, her accomplice, alleged by police to be Elmer William Welsh, 37, threatened the pharmacist with what appeared to be a hunting knife. The pharmacist told police the man said he was there for drugs, not to hurt anyone, and he needed the pills for sick family members. Before leaving, the pharmacist said, the man gave him a hug.

Power and the man escaped with $360 in cash and about 1,500 pills, including painkillers Demerol and a generic brand of Percocet, as well as Ritalin, used to treat attention deficit disorder.

The pair were arrested four days after the robbery, after police received an anonymous tip, saying Power and Welsh had been staying at the Captain’s Quarters hotel. Hotel staff were able to give police a garbage bag taken from the couple’s room after they checked out, containing syringes, various drug paraphernalia, and an empty 500-tablet bottle of Ritalin.

“A 500-tablet bottle is not something anyone without a licence or in a hospital is allowed to have in their possession,” explained prosecutor Bill Cadigan. Handwriting on the top of the bottle was claimed by the pharmacist to be his.

Power and Welsh were arrested around 4 a.m. Jan. 12, and Power confessed to her role in the robbery. The stolen pills were never recovered by police, and Power said the money was used to buy cocaine and pay for the hotel room.

While being held in the lockup, Power herself called the police back, and confessed to attempting to rob the Subway store on Kelsey Drive about three hours before her arrest.

In that robbery, Power — who later said she had been high on pills — entered the store with a knife and demanded money from the lone female employee. When the employee showed her the till was empty, she asked for the woman’s wallet. The woman told her she wasn’t carrying any cash on her and Power left, after saying, “Wait 90 seconds before you call the cops because I know where you live, bitch.”

Cadigan read victim impacts from the two drugstore clerks, aged 19 and 17.

“I ask myself why? Why me? Why (the other cashier)? What did we do to deserve this torment?,” the older of the girls wrote in her statement. She said she has trouble sleeping, is often scared and tense, and often can’t concentrate.

“I’ve cried in the night, which leads to panic attacks. I’ve cracked.”

The younger girl wrote she, too, suffers from panic attacks, is frequently agitated, has trouble concentrating on her studies, and has frequent flashbacks of the robbery.

“I hope each day (the flashbacks) will stop haunting me, but so far I haven’t had any luck,” she wrote, adding she’s been seeing a psychologist since the incident. “For the first time in my life, I feel like my thoughts are completely out of my control, and that frightens me.”

Power also pleaded guilty to charges relating to other incidents that happened in 2010, including shoplifting from Canadian Tire, and possessing a weapon (bear spray).

Judge Colin Flynn will hear submissions from Cadigan and defence lawyer Jane Fitzpatrick Monday morning before making a decision on Power’s sentence.

Welsh is due back in court today.

tbradbury@thetelegram.com

www.twitter.com/tara_bradbury

Organizations: Gatorade, Quarters hotel, Canadian Tire

Geographic location: Burgeo Street, Cowan Heights

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