Arrica Okenka didn’t have a problem with the plea agreement worked out with the man who tried to steal her assistance dog, but she was angered Friday when he insisted he was going to take her purse, not her dog.
“If he wanted my purse, I keep it on the back of my [wheel]chair,” Ms. Okenka, with her dog Ingrid at her side, told Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Gene Zmuda. “I don’t know what his motive was for taking her, but she means a lot to me. I know a lot of people take pride in their dog, but this dog doesn’t leave my side.”
Quincy T. Mathews, 20, of 2406 Rockspring Rd., pleaded guilty to robbery, a second-degree felony, for attempting to steal Ms. Okenka’s dog July 15 as he was exiting a TARTA bus at West Bancroft Street and Upton Avenue. His guilty plea was part of an agreement that included an agreed-upon sentence of two years in prison, which Judge Zmuda imposed.
Mathews told the court he had talked with Ms. Okenka on the bus that afternoon.
“Prior to me exiting the bus, I reached for what I thought was her purse, but it was the leash for her dog,” Mathews said, adding that when he realized it was the leash, he let go and got off the bus.
The leash was wrapped around her hand, and her middle finger was cut during the robbery attempt, although Mathews said he didn’t know that at the time.
His attorney Kurt Bruderly said his client admits what he did was wrong, but that he thought he was grabbing a coin purse with the thought of getting money or her cell phone.
“I don’t know how someone could benefit from stealing an animal,” Mr. Bruderly said. “I don’t know that there’s a market for it."
Still, Ms. Okenka, said the dog is invaluable to her.
Ingrid, she said, does things for her so that she doesn’t have to ask for help from strangers.
On the afternoon Mathews tried to take the dog, she said, Mathews watched as she dropped a card and the dog picked it up for her — a command she demonstrated for the court.
She said Mathews asked to use her cell phone and she let him. He also asked her questions about her dog and whether the dog would bite someone who harmed her in some way.
“I didn’t realize he was going to take the dog,” she said. “I thought he asked that because he was going to take off with my phone.”
Matthews apologized in court, saying, “What I did was senseless and dumb, and it should have never happened.”
Judge Zmuda called Mathews a predator who preyed on someone he perceived was weaker.
“You saw how scared she still is,” the judge told Mathews. “You caused that, and as you stand before me, I don’t think you care at all. You have a lot of growing up to do.”
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.