July 17th, 2024

Woman jailed for stealing, squatting in vacant homes

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on November 29, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A 26-year-old woman who stole more than $1,000 worth of cosmetics from a city business, and was caught after repeatedly breaking into vacant properties, has received a short jail sentence.

Makayla Wilhelmina Veenstra was sentenced Tuesday in Lethbridge court of justice after pleading guilty to two charges each of mischief, theft and failure to comply with release conditions.

In August and October of this year Veenstra broke into the same vacant house in the 1200 block of 5 Avenue North. In the first instance on Aug. 3 police responded to a call from the owner of the residence who was checking his properties and noticed a shopping cart in one of the yards, which contained items that had been in a garage on the property.

Police found Veenstra and one other person inside the garage and they were arrested. Veenstra was subsequently released on an undertaking prohibiting her from going to the residence, but on the morning of Oct. 4 the owner noticed a broken window and the rear door propped open. While police were searching the house, they heard a woman say “hello,” and found Veenstra and two other people in one of the rooms.

“We just wanted to get out of the cold,” Veenstra told Justice Erin Olsen.

Veenstra was released, but arrested again following a report on Nov. 19 that a man and woman were at a northside store and the man was acting aggressively toward the clerk. The couple left but police found them shortly afterward in a park. Veenstra was arrested but the man and another individual fled from police and got away.

During a search police found Veenstra in possession of tin snips, side cutters and a bolt cutter, despite being prohibited previously from possessing any hand tools or power tools.

Veenstra was also caught stealing items from two city businesses, the first on Aug. 12 at London Drugs on the northside. Veenstra was identified three days later after police reviewed video surveillance footage and saw her enter the store, select makeup and beauty related products worth about $1,500 and conceal them in a bag before leaving the store.

Three months later Veenstra took two speakers worth about $400 from Best Buy on Mayor Magrath Drive South. She was again identified by video surveillance footage and arrested a few days later.

Calgary lawyer John Oman told court Veenstra struggles with addictions and has been living on the streets for several years, often squatting in vacant homes and sleeping at the homeless shelter or with friends.

Veenstra was sentenced to 50 days in jail, but given credit for the equivalent of 15 days spent in remand custody, leaving her with 35 days to serve. She was also fined $300, but she is allowed to serve two days in jail in lieu of payment, which will run concurrently with the 50-day sentence.

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