"Nobody ever said, "What's going on with you?' I was a single mom and had just lost custody of my children."

                                                                    ~ Julie

Julie's conviction is a direct result of her mental illness. Soon after a bipolar diagnosis, for which she was given new medication, she walked out of Walmart with more than $750 worth of groceries in her basket -- without paying for them. She put them in her trunk -- food, cat litter, laundry soap -- and drove home. By the time the police arrived at her house (everyone knew each other in her small town), the groceries were still in her car -- even the pot roast. 

Instead of going to court, Julie attempted suicide.  She was convicted of theft in the second degree -- a class C felony. As a first-time offender, she did not go to prison but was assessed $1,500 in LFOs.

At the time of her interview, her mental illness wouldn't allow her to hold down a job. She lives with her parents, who make her $25 monthly LFO payments, towards the interest only. "If my parents were not helping me out, and were not paying this for me, I’m sure that I would have been in jail at some point along this." She still owes $1,579 in LFOs.


In Julie's Own Words . . . 

on legal Financial Obligations . . . 

Julie in her parent's home after our interview. Behind her on the mantle is a portrait of her parents on their 50-year anniversary. 

Julie in her parent's home after our interview. Behind her on the mantle is a portrait of her parents on their 50-year anniversary. 

"My LFOs, they are never going away until I can get a job and just pay off the $1,500 dollars and say I’m done. I owe $200 in court costs, $700 to pay an attorney – it’s explained to me that I’m not actually paying for my attorney, I’m paying for the court to find me an attorney. The DNA fee [$100] , which ended up a total of $1500. . .  I now owe $1,579. You have to pay for DOC [Department of Corrections] to do your pee tests, to monitor you - whatever your PO does. Mine was $200 so I just paid $5 a month, or my mom and dad paid. I still owe $100 to pay for that even though I'm not being monitored by DOC anymore."

"What's crazy is that if I didn't make a payment for three months, I could go to jail. I never went to jail for the original crime. . .  It's the judge's job to decide whether you can pay them or not . .   If he would have said, "what's going on?" I don't work, I'm a mom. I don't have a bank account. I haven't had a bank account in twelve years. I just tried to commit suicide. I'm living with my parents because I don't have another option right now. I'm doing this outpatient so that I don't go to jail because of my mental illness. But nobody ever said, "What's going on with you?""

On Mental Illness . . . 

"He [her new counsellor] was the one that said, ya know, I think maybe you are bi-polar. . . .  So they put me on Latuda. Things just went chaotic. All all hell broke loose. I was very flat. I didn’t know right from wrong. . . . And then the day I just went to Walmart. And filled my shopping cart. There was food. There was cat litter. Laundry soap.  And I just pushed it out the front of Walmart, and put it in my trunk, and drove home.

And the police came by later and everything was still in my trunk. I hadn’t even had enough sense to bring it in. Or I was just so out of it, I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know. One of the officers that came to my house had been a neighbor when I lived there and he just said I think you know why we are here. And I was like, yeah. And I just grabbed my keys and took him out to the car. And they are like well, is there anything in the house? And I said I don’t think so. So they came in and they went thru the apartment and Pat was the name of the officer and we were walking out of my room and I was behind him and he just turned and said, “What happened? Why did you do this?” And I just remember telling him I was lonely. I don’t know where that came from. And I didn’t remember that until years later. 

They left, they took everything, I got in my car, it was 3:15 and it was time to go get my kids from school. So I just did that and my mom said I called her and I just told her the police just came and took a bunch of stuff that I stole from Walmart. And she’s like what? I don’t know. I’m like I just took stuff from Walmart and she said it’s just really spooky that I told it to her like we were going to have pizza for dinner. And then I was like, ok I’m done with this conversation and hung up..

For many years, Julie lived in a remote community in eastern Washington. But it was a big enough place for Walmart to have a store. The parking lot of the Walmart where Julie walked out with $750-plus dollars worth of goods is almost empty. 

The next couple days it hit that I could go to jail for this. And that just scared me to death. One because I’m claustrophobic. But what would happen to my kids, and what would happen to me. And that became an obsession. Deckert is 15 and Justice is 17. (The world needed more justice!) So I get a court date. I’ve never been arrested, I’ve never ridden in a police car. And I get a court date. And its at 9 o’clock, 9:05. I take my kids to school that morning. I’m like, ok I’ll see you after school. I always saw them after school.  I went home and my bottle of pills. I had just had it filled so there was 40. And there was a glass of water there. And I swear to this day that if I had to go to get a glass, I wouldn’t have taken those pills. But I did. I just went and laid down in my bed. And I woke at 12. And I couldn’t stand up. And I was just weak, I was dizzy. And I just kept thinking I missed my court date. So for the next three hours I don’t know exactly what happened. I can kinda piece together some of the things. Somehow I went to the bathroom and I got the bottle and I had my cell phone at some point. It shows that I had called 911. But it was a touch screen and my hands were shaking so it had like a “9” and then a disconnect. And then it had 9-1 or . . . 

My son walked home from school because I wasn’t there. And the door wasn’t locked because I remember crawling to the front door thinking – we were on a ground-level apartment – and if I open the door, somebody in the parking lot that is driving by will see that I need help. The door was unlocked and I managed to get that unlocked. He came in and I guess the first thing I said was I’m not supposed to be here, I’m supposed to be dead." 

On Eighteen Minutes . . .

Coming soon!