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Honor Student Charged in Robbery

January 28, 1999

BERKLEY, Mich. (AP) _ To acquaintances, 16-year-old Sarah Plumb is popular and smart. Police describe her far differently _ as a robber who stole to support a heroin habit.

Charged as an adult with armed robbery and suspected in several others, Sarah awaits trial on a count which carries a possible sentence of life behind bars.

Police say the one-time honor student and high school gymnast staged a string of robberies in and around this Detroit suburb to pay for a heroin habit that cost up to $200 a day.

In all the stickups, the robber said she had a weapon but didn’t reveal it, police said. Michigan law requires only the threat of a weapon for an armed-robbery conviction.

Defense attorney Howard Arnkoff said Sarah should be considered a juvenile and should have been charged with something less than armed robbery, since no weapon was displayed.

``If she gets convicted, it’s a non-probational offense. She must be incarcerated. She must be sent to prison,″ Arnkoff said. ``And I seriously doubt she could get the help she needs.″

Word of her arrest created such a buzz among Berkley High School’s 1,300 students Wednesday that the administration took to the PA system to discourage rumor-mongering.

``It was a big surprise,″ said 15-year-old freshman Niki Boneff, bowling with friends at Hartfield Lanes after school. Berkley, a community of 16,000, typically has a half dozen armed robberies each year.

``Typically, hard drugs are few and far between,″ Detective Ray Anger said Wednesday.

Though she denies committing the robberies, Sarah admits she is a heroin addict. She was arrested Dec. 21.

She told police she began using the drug at age 14 when a co-worker at a pizza parlor introduced her and her boyfriend to heroin.

Last June, she got caught cashing a forged check stolen from the high school and confessed she was using the money to buy heroin, Anger said.

``Mom was able to get her into a clinic for a couple of weeks, but then the insurance ran out,″ Anger said. ``Two weeks doesn’t cut it for anybody.″

The robberies began last month, police said.

About 6 p.m. on Dec. 2, she allegedly entered an Amoco station next to the high school wearing a skull Halloween face mask and told the 17-year-old clerk _ a fellow student _ that she had a weapon.

Ms. Plumb made off with $300, then went to her gymnastics team practice, police say.

She later allegedly tried to rob a BP station in Royal Oak on Dec. 14, robbed a beer and wine store in Berkley the same day, a pizzeria in Clawson on Dec. 15 and another pizzeria in Southfield on Dec. 16. She has not been charged in those holdups.

A friend tipped police to Sarah as a suspect in the first robbery.

She is next due in court Feb. 22.

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