ST. GEORGE – When a St. George couple tried to flee a clothing store after reportedly trying to steal more than $500 worth of merchandise last week, a young child was allegedly used as a shield in an altercation and tossed to another man before being left behind at the store by his parents.
Officers responded to Christensen’s Department Store located at 761 S. Bluff Street in St. George on a retail theft report where the owner of the store watched a man and woman conceal jeans and attempt to leave the store without paying, according to probable cause statements filed by the St. George Police Department in support of the arrests.
The married couple took multiple pairs of jeans worth a combined total of $515.99, according to the statements.
When the department store owner stopped the woman, later identified as 25-year-old Melinda Carmen Olivera, at the door, she allegedly threw the jeans at the owner and attempted to escape, the reports read.
When the owner blocked Olivera from leaving, the man, identified as 27-year-old Cory Cameron Atack, pushed the owner into a rack of clothing so Olivera could escape, according to the statements, while using his son as a shield to slow the owner down.
“Cory used his son as a shield between him and (the store owner),” the arresting officer wrote in the statement. “Cory continued to push back (the owner) with his son. Cory then tossed the child to a friend Felipe Garcia.”
Atack fled the store, using the child’s stroller to aid in his escape, the statements read. The owner of the store suffered a cut on his wrist during the altercation.
Atack then left in a white Toyota truck driven by Olivera, leaving the child behind with 29-year-old Felipe Kahala Garcia, according to the reports. Garcia left the store and walked towards Kmart where he was stopped by police.
Police called Olivera’s mother and asked her to have Olivera return to the store, the statements read. Olivera complied and returned to the store. Atack later returned to the store with his mother-in-law after she went and picked him up.
Atack reportedly had two pairs of jeans with him that he and Olivera had taken. The other two pairs of jeans were recovered in the store by the owner.
Atack and Olivera were arrested and booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
Atack was charged with second-degree felony robbery, along with class A misdemeanor retail theft.
Judge Jeffrey Wilcox, of the 5th District Court, ordered $10,000 bail for Atack’s release pending trial.
He was found indigent by the court during his initial court appearance Thursday and will be represented by court-appointed attorney Michael Lastowski. He is scheduled to make his next court appearance Dec. 21.
Olivera was charged with third-degree felony retail theft, class A misdemeanor obstruction of justice and a class C misdemeanor for driving on a suspended license.
Wilcox ordered $5,000 bail for Olivera’s release pending trial.
She was also found indigent by the court during her initial court appearance Thursday and will be represented by court-appointed attorney Aric Cramer. She is scheduled to make her next court appearance Dec. 21.
Two days later, Atack and Olivera both received an additional class A misdemeanor charge for drug possession and a class B misdemeanor charge of possession of drug paraphernalia, according to court documents, after heroin and drug paraphernalia were found in the couple’s vehicle and wallet.
While Garcia was not charged in relation to the Christensen’s retail theft incident, officers learned he had three active warrants for his arrest for drug-related charges. He was also taken into custody.
While Garcia was being searched at the jail, an officer found a plastic tube that had been turned into a makeshift drug pipe along with a small piece of tinfoil with black streaks.
Garcia was charged with misdemeanor counts of drug and drug paraphernalia possession as well as destroying election paraphernalia.
He is scheduled for a video hearing Dec. 21.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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