Unlikely Suspects in Calif. Crime
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) _ She wore a Spice Girls T-shirt, her blonde hair cut in a conservative bob. His striped sweater was clean and neat. Detectives figured the pair who allegedly pulled off two armed robberies weren’t run-of-the-mill criminals.
But even they were surprised to learn the suspects were students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and their alleged getaway driver an elementary school teaching aide.
Emma Rose Freeman, 18, a National Merit Scholar, is accused of pointing a .380-caliber Beretta semiautomatic handgun at a terrified stylist while robbing a hair salon on Jan. 16 with her boyfriend Anthony Louis Christophani, a senior philosophy major.
Five days later when a security guard at a Costco warehouse store asked to see receipts for a boom box and Walkman-like stereo system, she allegedly turned to him with the gun and said: ``Back off. Don’t do anything stupid.″
On Wednesday, it was Miss Freeman who shook with fear as a judge warned that she faces a long prison sentence if convicted of the two armed robberies.
Christophani and Craig Dickson, 23-year-old roommates, posted bail earlier on the same charges. But Judge Heather Morse raised Miss Freeman’s bail from $25,000 to $150,000 as prosecutors filed additional charges of brandishing the weapon.
``I’m devastated,″ her mother, Linda Freeman, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel from their home in Southern California. ``This is a girl who was a National Merit Scholar. Her only offense was to brake for a squirrel. Then there was a total change after she went to college.″
Santa Cruz police Sgt. Steve Clark said Miss Freeman had told detectives that she needed money so ``she could concentrate on her art.″
But as she clutched tissues in her shaking hands, Miss Freeman told the judge Wednesday she had taken out student loans to pay her college tuition.
Police were checking to see if the three match descriptions of suspects in crimes in neighboring communities.
``We don’t get that many cases involving UCSC students,″ prosecutor Gretchen Brock said. ``I imagine that’s because they’re usually busy studying instead of getting into trouble.″
Clark said officers suspected that the robbers, who had taped a piece of paper over the license plate of their getaway car, might be college students ``just because of their demeanor and their dress.″
Doug Fox, Miss Freeman’s court-appointed attorney, said he thought the judge brought up the prison time to scare his client. But he said ``there is a serious, real prospect that she will serve some time in state prison.″
State law mandates prison sentences for anyone who uses a gun during a crime. Miss Freeman faces up to 26 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.
Officers made the arrests late Friday based on sketches of the suspects and a description of their getaway car, which was traced to Dickson. The gun was registered to Christophani.
University officials said they are considering suspending or expelling Miss Freeman and Christophani, who was just months away from graduation.
``This girl had such great prospects,″ Fox said. ``She’s intelligent, attractive. If you’re to picture your average armed robber, you wouldn’t picture this young woman.″