BRATTLEBORO -- A Brattleboro woman who says drugs and mental-health issues led her to commit a string of break-ins and thefts last year will serve at least 26 months in prison for those crimes.
Chelsie Ouellette, 38, previously had pleaded guilty to 13 counts covering incidents in May, June and July in Brattleboro.
On Wednesday in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division, Judge David Suntag ordered Ouellette to serve 26 months to 10 years in prison, imposing a maximum far greater than had been requested by both the defense and the prosecution.
That means Ouellette will remain under long-term state supervision even if she is released when her minimum sentence is complete.
"What you've got is the Department of Corrections in your life for a long time," Suntag told Ouellette before she returned to prison.
Ouellette in November pleaded to two burglaries, two counts of possessing stolen property and one count each of unlawful trespass, petit larceny, credit-card fraud and providing false information to a police officer.
She also entered pleas to five counts of violating the court-ordered conditions of her release.
Her crimes included possessing stolen glasses and a gym bag; using a stolen credit card to purchase gas on Canal Street; attempting to steal a wallet from a car; and trespassing at the Price Chopper grocery store in spite of a police order to stay away from that property.
The burglary convictions stem from break-ins in June on Cross Street and July at Morningside Commons.
Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Shriver read a victim-impact statement from a woman who had her purse stolen by Ouellette at the USDA Service Center in Brattleboro. That led to the woman's credit card being used for the unauthorized gas purchase.
"My purse was not out in plain sight," the woman wrote, adding that Ouellette had discarded an item from her purse that was "a treasured gift from my father."
That item was never recovered, and the victim also wrote that she remains concerned about identity theft.
"I will never know when this is over," she wrote.
Shriver also noted comments from other victims, including one whose home was burglarized. The victim, in addition to dealing with financial impacts and the practical concern of putting her home back in order, also dealt with "the emotional impact of having someone in her home and taking her personal items ... and treating them as trash," Shriver said.
While acknowledging Ouellette's personal problems and substance-abuse issues, Shriver said the defendant has "little or no respect for other people."
"There's a deeper criminality," Shriver said. "And there does come a point where we start to think we've done all we can."
That sentiment was supported by the testimony of a Probation and Parole staffer who said that, while Ouellette was free and under state supervision, "most of her conditions were broken at some point."
Another Probation and Parole official, Gary Stevens, noted that Ouellette "has had multiple, multiple, multiple opportunities to attend various programs."
"Despite all those interventions, the defendant still continued to engage in criminal behavior," Stevens testified.
Shriver requested a 30-month to 72-month prison sentence, while defense attorney Chris Montgomery asked for 18 months to 48 months.
Montgomery argued that his client is still relatively young and "has the ability to turn her life around."
Ouellette told Suntag that she is "really ashamed of my actions, and I take full responsibility for everything I chose to do."
"I never purposely set out to cause harm to anybody," Ouellette said. "And I see that I did I'm really aware of the impact I've had on these people's lives."
Suntag decided that neither of the requested maximum sentences was sufficient, instead imposing the 10-year maximum. He noted that Ouellette will participate in state programming and counseling.
"I think Ms. Ouellette needs a lengthy period of supervision," Suntag said.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.