Trader Joe’s kidnapper sent to prison for violating probation

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A Lakeport woman who received a suspended sentence for kidnapping a child in 2016 from a Trader Joe’s store in Santa Rosa was sent to prison Friday for violating terms of her probation, prosecutors said.

Tina Szczepanek, 42, was ordered to serve the eight-year prison term stemming from the 2016 kidnapping case, according to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office.

Szczepanek entered a plea of no contest to the kidnapping charge in March 2017. She was sentenced to probation, one year in jail, ordered to enroll in a counseling program, and given a suspended sentence of eight years in prison.

One year later, Szczepanek was arrested for violating the terms of her probation. Prosecutors said she admitted using drugs and failed to complete the counseling program.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Dana Simonds on Friday ordered Szczepanek to serve the original eight-year prison term, which had been suspended while she was on probation.

Szczepanek was arrested in December 2016 when she picked up a 4-year-old girl at the Trader Joe’s store on Santa Rosa Avenue and carried her out to the parking lot. The girl’s mother, who was standing in line at the checkout stand, ran outside and confronted Szczepanek, who put the child down and walked away.

“The crime committed by this defendant is a family’s nightmare, but thanks to the quick thinking of the victim’s mother, nothing further happened. Nonetheless, the egregious conduct of the defendant merits the sentence she received,” District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a statement.

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