Carole Colbert Sales shouldn't have bounced those grocery checks. She should have returned her rented videotapes on time. And she should have appeared in court to take responsibility for her errors.
But does she really belong on a list of Anne Arundel's "Most Wanted" criminals?
Since she appeared on the list last month, Sales has been stoppedin the checkout lines at grocery stores by clerks who recognized herand chased, on foot, through Glen Burnie by police.
"I've had a horrible week," said Sales, "hiding out" in her sister's kitchen in Lansdowne shortly after the chase.
"I've got fever blisters. The doctor says it's my nerves," Sales said. "I'm scared to go to Glen Burnie. I won't set foot in Anne Arundel County."
Sales' face appeared in newspapers and on cable television as part of a list of "fugitives" sought by the Sheriff's Office and county and state police. By mimicking the popular "America's Most Wanted" television show, which solicits tips from ordinary citizens, Sheriff Robert Pepersack, who compiles the list, hoped to get some dangerous people off the street.
"These are individuals wanted for murder, rape, robbery and similar serious crimes," he wrote in a letter to The Sun earlier this year.
How did Sales end up on the list?
"She was the one (county police)wanted most," said Undersheriff Patrick Ogle. "They wanted her bad."
County police spokesman V. Richard Molloy said police catch most serious criminals right away.
"We just aren't going to be looking for murderers all the time," he said. "When you have to do one of these lists every month, you start running out of people."
Police were particularly interested in Sales because her cases were so old. Shewas wanted on four open arrest warrants and two open bench warrants dating from 1988.
No charges have been filed against her since 1988.
Formerly of Glen Burnie and Brooklyn Park, Sales, 47, lives in Baltimore. A homemaker, she has six children, ages 27 to 10, and six grandchildren.
Between July 1987 and March 1988, she wrote eight bad checks worth $524.15 -- five grocery checks, one check to a Linthicum card shop, one to Bradlee's, and one to Clown Capers for a clown for her daughter's birthday party. She also failed to return several videotapes, valued at $339.78.
Sales does not pretend to an extensive knowledge of the court system. All she knows is that she made thechecks good and paid one of the video stores in June 1988. She has the money order receipts to prove it. She says she settled up in cash with the other video store.
Once she paid, Sales believed the cases were closed and her problems behind her.
Not so, says Assistant State's Attorney David Fordham. Merely making restitution for a bad check isn't enough; you have to show up in court -- something Sales failed to do twice, he said.
Although Sales says she does not remember being served with a summons, court records show she was served twice with orders to appear in court; bench warrants were issued when she failed to show up for the trials. As a result, Fordham said, those two bench warrants, as well as four arrest warrants, remained open.
The State's Attorney's Office only closed the cases early last month, after Sales complained about appearing on the list. Seeing that Sales had repaid the debts, three of the cases were ordered closed March 3. Three were ordered closed March 17 -- the day police came after her at her Glen Burnie pediatrician's office after a nurse tipped them off.
"It's terrible that my 10-year-old child thinks I'm Bonnie and Clyde," said a tearful Sales, who ran -- successfully -- from police "because I was scared to death."
So, should Sales have been onthe "Most Wanted" list?
Technically, she was wanted. Police hadn't been able to locate her for four years, and yet, a week after the list was published she was found. In that sense, the list did its job.
Then again, isn't the concept of a "Most Wanted" list trivializedif, for lack of more serious criminals, you include a grandmother who wrote a couple of hundred dollars worth of bad checks that have long since been made good?
"I paid my dues," Sales said. "I did it. But it was over and done, and I shouldn't have to keep reliving it."
Elise Armacost covers county government as a reporter for the Anne Arundel County Sun.