A 45-year-old woman was given a 10-year jail term on Monday for firing at two random cars from her SUV on different days last year in Maplewood and St. Paul, hurting the drivers, who were hit in the head, and the drivers’ 4-year-old son, who was injured by broken glass.
Following a plea deal with the prosecution, Latoya Nicole Weston of West St. Paul was found guilty of one count of drive-by shooting and two counts of second-degree assault. As part of the June deal, which stipulated the 10-year statutory maximum jail term, an attempted murder allegation was dropped.
Public defender Carole Finneran, who represents Weston, requested from Ramsey County District Judge Kelly Olmstead a dispositional departure from state sentencing guidelines and probation with conditions for her client’s “serious and persistent mental illness,” which included completing a community-based program.
Weston was not taking her medicine at the time of the shootings, according to Finneran, who also said that she had been civilly committed as mentally ill in 2005.
Weston was determined to be competent through a pre-sentencing inquiry procedure, according to prosecutor Nelson Rhodus, who stated that this also justified a 10-year jail term.
Olmstead informed Weston that she thought she “wasn’t in your right mind” when the shootings took place. She said, nevertheless, that she was unable to “determine that probation is compatible with public safety.”
The public’s tips assisted in Weston’s arrest on December 14. A security camera picture of the suspect, subsequently identified as Weston, and the white BMW X3 SUV that she fired from on Marion Street, just north of Interstate 94, on October 19 had been made public by St. Paul police. The driver, a 21-year-old lady, and her three passengers, who were aged 1, 3, and 14, were all in the vehicle when it was struck by three bullets.
Police said at the time the photographs were made public that the suspect had just over three months previously fired at a vehicle in Maplewood at random, striking a 29-year-old woman in the head. She was hurt, but it wasn’t life-threatening. Her 4-year-old kid received medical attention at the hospital for glass-related injuries on his arm and leg.
The accusations state that on the afternoon of July 1, Maplewood police went to St. John’s Hospital in response to a complaint of a lady who had been shot. Despite having a gunshot in the right side of the back of her skull, she remained awake and aware.
She informed authorities that she was following a white BMW SUV that looked to be travelling slowly on U.S. 61 in her Toyota Camry. She moved to pass the BMW as both cars turned east onto Beam Avenue. She felt something smack the back of her head while she was doing this. Back seat passenger was her son.
When the police checked out the woman’s automobile, they discovered that the right rear passenger window was broken. The headrest on the right side of the driver’s seat seemed to have been struck by a bullet. According to the allegations, the woman’s head was struck by a 9mm bullet.
After the 21-year-old lady and her 14-year-old sister exited a nail shop in the vicinity of University Avenue and Dale Street just after noon on October 19, a shooting occurred in St. Paul.
The BMW was moving extremely slowly in front of her, the lady said, and they both made a right onto Marion Street near Fuller Avenue. She said that she heard a female motorist shout before hearing gunfire as she passed the BMW. On Marion Street, police discovered two expended cartridge cases from a.38 caliber handgun.
Prior to 11:30 a.m., surveillance footage captured the BMW parked close to the nail shop and the lady entering the establishment. Around midday, she went back to her car and stayed there by herself for a bit while the 21-year-old and her family moved to their neighboring car, “appearing to have no contact with her,” according to the complaint.
According to the allegations, after Weston’s arrest in December, officers executed a search warrant at her West St. Paul residence and discovered a box containing a.38-caliber revolver in the bedroom closet.
The lady who was shot gave a victim impact statement during Weston’s sentencing hearing. The lady said in her testimony that her “worst nightmare” occurred just after she changed lanes on Beam Avenue. Rhodus, the prosecution attorney, read the statement. She said that despite being shot and her kid being hurt, she summoned her “motherly fortitude” to drive to the hospital.
The incident, according to her, “created a lasting scar that follows us now.”
Weston requested the judge for mercy and apologized to the victims and their families for the “horror I created by my acts” in a statement she read in court.