WILKES-BARRE – Linda Plews said she only wanted to speak to the manager at Weis/Mr. Z’s grocery store in Nanticoke about the price of lobsters.
The next thing she knew, Plews claimed, she was being confronted by a Nanticoke police officer and charged with stealing a chicken wing from the store’s deli.
“I don’t steal,” Plews, 53, said after charges of retail theft, defiant trespass and resisting arrest were dismissed Wednesday during a preliminary hearing in Central Court.
A district judge dismissed the charges, including disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, when the investigating officer, Amos Vanderhoff, failed to appear at the hearing.
Detective Capt. William Shultz said Vanderhoff has been on medical leave since injuring his foot arresting a suspect in an unrelated case several weeks ago.
Plews, of West Nanticoke, was charged by Vanderhoff on April 26 with allegedly stealing the chicken wing and causing a disturbance in the store.
She called the charges a “vendetta” against her because, she claimed, she was cleared of drunken driving charges filed against her by Nanticoke police.
According to Luzerne County Court records, state police at Wyoming and Kingston Township police filed separate drunken driving charges against Plews in June 2007 and October 2006, respectively.
She was sentenced in April 2008 to 60 days to one year, including a two-year license suspension, on the two DUI cases, court records say.
Plews said she was in the store because it was having a special on lobsters. When she got into a dispute with a store clerk about the price, she asked to speak to the manager. She said the clerk called police instead.
That’s when trouble began, Plews said.
“I put the chicken wing on my purse and walked over to the salad bar where I always put the chicken wing in the container,” Plews said. “Then Vanderhoff comes up and tells me to leave the store.”
Plews claimed she was walking out of the store when Vanderhoff approached her from behind and grabbed her purse.
“When you’re walking and someone comes up from behind you and grabs your purse, you’re going to react,” Plews said. “I didn’t know who grabbed my purse. I did say, ‘You’re a (expletives)’ to (Vanderhoff).”
Shultz said that when Vanderhoff returns to work, they’ll meet with the District Attorney’s Office to determine if the charges against Plews are to be re-filed.