Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Life or Death at a Dollar...
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Life or Death at a Dollar Store

Four years after a violent armed robbery, a Petoskey woman faces charges

Patrick Sullivan - October 29th, 2012  

The day’s first business at the Dollar Tree Store in Petoskey was a typical dollar store transaction - some cheap merchandise exchanged for a couple of bucks.

This transaction, conducted by clerk Martha Anderson at 9:02 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2008, was a return. A customer came in just as the the store opened to exchange two packages of foil noise-making horns for $2.12.

Lt. Randall Weston of the Petoskey Department of Public Safety noted the time and amount of the transaction in his police report -- data recorded on a cash register tape.

Police would be summoned to the store 11 minutes later to respond to a much more serious transaction.

Another customer, dressed in a long black coat and a black hat, who had come into the store around the time it opened, waited patiently for the other shopper to leave.

Once the black-clad woman was alone with the clerk, the customer asked Anderson where she could find sewing kits. Anderson led the woman down an aisle.

Then, as the women chatted about sewing kits, the encounter turned violent.

The customer stuck something, maybe a gun, into Anderson’s back. She ordered the clerk to open a safe and took $700. Then she forced the clerk into a back room and slashed her neck with a knife.


Anderson, then 24, would survive the attack.

In the interview with Officer Fritz Haalck, Anderson recalled the events that led to the strange and horrific knife assault.

Once the robber had control of Anderson, she directed her around the store, holding onto her and staying behind her. She first directed Anderson to the front of the store, where she locked the entrance.

Next, the robber guided Anderson to the safe, where Anderson, coerced, entered a six-digit code to pop the door open. Anderson took out a bank bag marked “Dollar Tree.” The suspect told her to put it into a plastic shopping bag.

Anderson also turned over the starter cash from two register drawers that totaled $150.

She asked the suspect if she also wanted the change in the safe. The robber said she did; all of it except the pennies.

Next, the suspect took Anderson to the office at the back of the store. She asked her if she had any money in her purse; Anderson said she didn’t.

The robber told her to put the purse in the plastic bag, but Anderson protested, saying the purse was special to her; it was a beloved Christmas gift.

The suspect insisted she wanted the purse, and Anderson said she got so upset she wound up throwing the purse on the floor.

The suspect then ordered her to sit down in a chair.


This is when things got weird. The suspect retrieved a knife with a black handle and a four-inch blade from her pocket.

She ordered Anderson to tilt her head back in the chair.

The suspect grabbed Anderson by her hair behind her head, pulling her head back further, exposing more of her neck. She drew the knife along her left side. Anderson thought at first she was just being scraped because there wasn’t a lot of pain. Then she realized she was being cut.

When she felt blood pouring out, she instinctually grabbed the wound. Then there was blood all over her hands and jacket and Anderson realized this was serious.

“Anderson stated that she began to yell at the suspect, telling her to just leave; that she had what she wanted,” Haalck wrote. “The suspect, however, stated that she couldn’t leave because the victim had seen her and would be able to identify her.”

A fight followed, as Anderson struggled and the suspect slashed the knife at her neck again several times. Anderson was able to grab the knife by its blade to push it away; the blade slashed into her hand.

The suspect yelled at Anderson to put her hands down.

The knife flailed and got caught in Anderson’s coat.

Anderson screamed and cried and pleaded; she begged the suspect to leave her alone. She wouldn’t tell, she promised. (Later, when Anderson was shown a photo lineup by police, she was not able to conclusively pick her attacker out of the lineup.)


Finally the struggle ended. It had been as if the robber thought the clerk would assist in her own killing, and when Anderson protested and fought back, it was too much for her and she lost her nerve.

The robber decided to leave and she demanded that Anderson count to one hundred.

She searched Anderson for a cell phone and didn’t notice one in her upper left pocket.

The suspect left and took the store’s cordless phone with her.

Anderson counted to around 20, went to the stock room door to look into the store, and when she saw her attacker was gone, she used her cell phone to call 911.

Officer Haalck interviewed the doctor who treated Anderson. The doctor estimated the injury to her neck was nearly fatal -- had it been about a centimeter deeper, it would have cut Anderson’s carotid artery.


Officers canvassed the area around the shopping plaza and took witness statements, checked surveillance footage from nearby stores, and asked around about whether anyone had seen anyone who matched the suspect’s description.

Lt. Weston checked with Glen’s Market next door. A manager showed him surveillance footage of the store and he spotted someone who matched the dollar store robber’s description come into the grocery store at 8:26 a.m.

That woman had made a purchase using cash, so she hadn’t left behind anything that identified her by name, but they had surveillance photos.

Another officer found someone who had spotted a woman who matched the description of the robber get out of a black Pontiac Grand Prix in front of Dollar Tree just before the time of the robbery.

It looked from the start that police were just a few steps behind a suspect.


It would take years for a suspect to be arrested. Yet the name of the woman who was eventually jailed came up early in the investigation.

Lt. Weston later that morning asked the store manager, Brandy Lapeer, whether she knew of any former employees who could be the culprit.

Only one came to Lapeer’s mind, according to Weston’s report.

In fact, Lapeer said she had seen this woman in the back of the store only a week earlier. When she asked her what she was doing there, the woman told her she was getting boxes for a move.

Lapeer said the woman had been investigated by Petoskey police three years earlier after she was suspected of stealing a deposit from the store.

The woman, Tina Marie Stoll, 37, had been an employee at the store from March, 2004 for about a year until she was fired.

Anderson told police that one thing that stood out about the robbery was that the robber seemed to know the layout of the store very well. She knew where to find the money.

“The victim, Anderson, stated that she agreed the suspect must have had some prior knowledge as to the layout and possible procedures with the store,” Lt. Weston wrote.


Police immediately focused on Stoll. When officers went out to the place where she lived, in a trailer park south of Petoskey, they found a black Pontiac Grand Prix. It was registered to Stoll’s mother.

They amassed circumstantial evidence, but they lacked a smoking gun.

They would later find a coat similar to the one the suspect was seen to have worn, and they found a paper-clipped stack of 20 one dollar bills which matched a stack of bills taken from the store.

Family members, including a daughter, provided an alibi for Stoll’s whereabouts at the time of the robbery; however, the officer who talked to the daughter wrote that she was nervous as she gave a statement and appeared to have been coached on what to say.

The next day, Petoskey Police issued a press release with a composite drawing of a suspect, based on a description Anderson gave to a Michigan State Police sketch artist.

But even as they announced a search for the woman in the sketch, police were zeroing in on one woman.

Authorities got search warrants for Stoll’s house, her mom’s Grand Prix, and a Dodge Durango, registered in Tennessee to Stoll’s sister.

They went to the residence at around 6 p.m. Jan. 5 and executed the search warrants.

Stoll was there, and they told her she needed to turn over blood, saliva, hair and fingernail scrapings for DNA tests.


In an interview at the police department at around 9 p.m. a day after the robbery -- an interview Stoll volunteered to take part in, according to police -- the suspect said she was planning to leave for Tennessee the next day.

She denied that she had robbed the dollar store. She gave police an alibi for her movements the day of the robbery -- she said she hadn’t gotten up until 9 a.m.

Stoll’s attorney, Robert Engel of Petoskey, did not return a message seeking comment.

Stoll told police she had gone to see her son’s probation officer that day and had spent part of the day with her sister. She described a busy morning getting ready for an impending move out-of-state.

When police searched Stoll’s trailer, they’d found a paper bag full of change. It contained quarters, dimes and nickels -- but no pennies.

Lt. Weston asked Stoll about that. “She stated that she had let the kids separate the pennies from the other change, and she gave the pennies to her children,” he wrote.

He said Stoll also expressed concern for Anderson.

“At one point she stated that after the investigation was completed, she wished that she could send a sympathy card, along with some flowers, stating that she had been a store clerk and a cashier at a gas station working by herself and can imagine how the victim feels,” Weston wrote.


Weston also confronted Stoll about a pink and purple scarf investigators found at the crime scene.

“I asked Stoll if the samples taken from her earlier were going to match those on the scarf, and she stated they would not,” Weston wrote.

Weston wrote that Stoll got defensive, though, when he asked her about whether she had enough money to get to Tennessee.

He wrote that money frequently came up during the interview, and it appeared to be a sore spot for Stole.

“Money seemed to be an issue during the entire interview,” Weston wrote. “I asked her why she thought someone would commit an armed robbery, and she stated that she didn’t know.”

The interview ended. Stoll was released. Detectives didn’t have quite enough to hold her.

Weston went to her trailer the next day, a Sunday, at around 4 p.m., to follow up on some things with Stoll. Stoll was gone. He found her 16-year-old son who said his mother, grandmother, and his brothers and sisters had left for Tennessee at around 8 a.m. that morning.


It took a while for the two hairs police recovered from the scarf found at the scene to be tested.

Part of that is because the hair didn’t contain nuclear DNA; rather, the evidence needed to be tested for mitochondrial DNA, a less common kind of forensic test.

Mitochondrial DNA, unlike the more common nuclear DNA, can be extracted from dead material like strands of hair. It is a more complicated process, and it is a process currently not offered by state police crime labs in Michigan, said John Calabrese, director of the Petoskey Department of Public Safety.

That meant investigators had to go to a private laboratory for tests.

Calabrese said the DNA profile sequenced from the hair found on the scarf matched Stoll’s mitochondrial DNA profile.

That match prompted police to arrest Stoll in Tennessee on July 24 and to bring her back to Michigan. She now awaits trial in Emmet County on charges of armed robbery and being an habitual offender and she could face up to life in prison if she is convicted.

Her trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 18. Getting the mitochondrial DNA testing done was a “long, expensive process,” Calabrese said, but he said he couldn’t explain right now why it took four years because that is something that has yet to come out in court.

“It’s a long, complicated story,” Calabrese said. “Let’s just say there were no issues with the handling of the evidence. There was an unexpected delay.”

The Dollar Tree Store has moved into a new shopping center down the street from its old location on Spring Street since the robbery.

A manager at the store said she couldn’t comment, and she said that Anderson and Lapeer, the manager at the time of the robbery, no longer worked at the store.

Neither woman could be located for comment.

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