Following a two-day trial, a Franklin County jury convicted Stephanie Thompson, 20, Laurel, of robbery with a deadly weapon, a Level 3 felony, according to a press release from the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office.
The trial was held Jan. 29-30 in Franklin Circuit Court before Judge Steven Cox. The state was represented at trial by Prosecutor Mel Wilhelm; the defendant by Brookville attorney Jud McMillin.
The case arose out of investigation led by Maj. Gregory Mehlbauer, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department chief deputy. According to the probable cause affidavit, on Jan. 29, 2017, Mehlbauer received a report from Tanner Roberts, 19, that Thompson and an unknown male robbed him at gunpoint. Roberts stated that he received a text message from Thompson that she wished to purchase some marijuana from him, so a meeting was set up on U.S. 52 near the Whitewater Canal Trail.
Roberts parked his car near the trail, and Thompson arrived in a red vehicle. He exited his car, got into Thompson's car, and they drove to nearby Yellowbank Road. At some point, an unknown male in the back of the vehicle grabbed him around his body, placed a gun at his head and demanded his money, cell phone and back pack. Roberts complied with the demands. Thompson and the gunman then allowed Roberts to exit the vehicle and threatened to harm him if he reported this incident to the police.
Based on the report, Mehlbauer requested a warrant for Thompson’s arrest. She was arrested less than a week later and subsequently interviewed by Mehlbauer while in custody. At that time, Thompson denied all knowledge and involvement in the drug deal turned robbery.
Even though Thompson was not alleged to have wielded the gun during the robbery, her participation in the crime led the state to charge her with robbery with a deadly weapon. Under Indiana Law, an accomplice to a crime is just as guilty as the main perpetrator.
At trial, three eyewitnesses, including the victim, identified Thompson as being present at the scene of the crime. Among other evidence, the state also admitted records of text messages that pointed to her participation in setting up the robbery. Thompson herself testified and continued to deny all involvement in the crime. Under cross-examination by Wilhelm, she acknowledged buying marijuana from the victim in the past at the same location, but suggested that the victim fabricated the report of the crime as revenge for spurned advances.
To this day, the gunman has not been identified, and the investigation remains ongoing.
Following the guilty verdict, the judge remanded Thompson to the custody of the sheriff’s department and scheduled a sentencing hearing for Feb. 21. As a result of her conviction for robbery as Level 3 felony, Thompson is facing a sentence of three to16 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections.