Desperate people do desperate things. Jeanine Bungay knows that all too well.
Last Wednesday, she pleaded guilty to five charges in provincial court in connection to two convenience store robberies in 2013. Today she awaits her sentencing.
Acccording to media reports, Bungay’s story is both horrifying and heartbreaking. Motivated by a cocaine addiction developed six months into her pregnancy, she has torn her life apart. More than once during the past year, drugs came before family at critical moments.
But she was desperate. So she was selfish.
In May, Bungay committed her first armed robbery when she entered For Your Convenience, a corner store on the Conception Bay Highway in Foxtrap. Wearing sunglasses and holding a knife, she demanded money from the cashier.
Bungay was seven months’ pregnant at the time.
She made off with $200. When police apprehended her the next day, the money was gone. Her latest coke fix had been satisfied.
Bungay held up her second Conception Bay South convenience store last December when she wound up at CJ’s Convenience on the Foxtrap Access Road. This time, when she told the cashier to empty the register, all she was holding was a butter knife. Meanwhile, her two kids, still young enough for car seats, sat in the back of an SUV left running in the parking lot.
It sounds unthinkable, but it happened.
She was less successful this time around. Shortly after entering CJ’s, Bungay was chased out of the store by the owners. She hopped in her vehicle and sped off, swerving past an RNC roadblock intended to stop her and making it as far as Paradise before finally being nabbed by police.
She’s been stuck behind bars ever since.
Bungay’s story conjures a huge shock factor. The pregnancy, the butter knife, the kids waiting in the backseat — it all seems absurd. She was a woman at wit’s end, stuck in a vicious, inescapable cycle she never meant to fall into.
Last Wednesday, she told the court that at the time she felt stressed, depressed and lonely with her family moving so much in the past few months and her common-law husband working every day of the week. She said she felt things were falling apart all around her. For her, drugs became how she coped with it all.
But her new habit ended up spiralling out of control. Today’s sentencing is the culmination of that great decline.
Bungay’s is a textbook case of what addiction can do to a person, not to mention those they love. With two corner store robberies under her belt, she has embarrassed herself and her family. Soon, she’ll be in jail.
Worse still, once Bungay makes it out of prison, she will have missed a huge part of her kids’ lives. Over the next few years, while they’re learning to spell their names and to ride their bikes, their mother will be locked up and out of the picture.
Addiction is not easily overcome and, as Bungay shows, it can be shockingly debilitating. If there is anything to be taken from her struggle, it is the intensely corrupting influence of hard drugs.
In Bungay’s case, the stupid decision to use cocaine — there’s no sugar-coating it — seems to have been a choice made out of desperation. But instead of alleviating her issues, it created far more for her to deal with. Bungay’s situation shows the life-changing consequences of playing with harmful, addictive substances like cocaine. It’s easy enough to avoid, but it’s sure hard to escape once you’re hooked.
And once you’re in deep, it’s a hard job climbing out unscathed.
Patrick Butler, who’s from Conception Bay South, is enrolled in the journalism
program at Carleton University.
He can be reached by email at