Ex-teacher gets 7-year term for robbery

Woman blames descent on heroin addiction

April 27, 2001|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A former English teacher received a seven-year state prison sentence yesterday for a robbery last summer in Westminster, during which she held a knife to the neck of a gasoline station cashier.

The life of Miriam Rivera, 36, "reads like two different books," Thomas Nugent Jr., assistant public defender, said yesterday in Carroll County Circuit Court. In her native Puerto Rico, she earned a college degree in linguistics and English and taught English as a second language.

But after she and her husband moved to Carroll, Nugent said, her husband left her for another woman. Rivera sank into depression and began to use drugs, developing a heroin habit that led to petty theft and bad-check charges, he said. She underwent drug treatment, but the untreated depression caused a relapse.

"Heroin has destroyed my life," Rivera told Judge Francis M. Arnold, a retired county circuit judge, before her sentencing. "But I do want to thank God for saving my life, and I do want to change."

Rivera, formerly of Baltimore and Kriders Church Road in Westminster, has been at Carroll County Detention Center since her arrest Aug. 18. She was convicted of armed robbery for using a steak knife to take $256 from a clerk at the Amoco station at Route 140 and Englar Road, said Senior State's Attorney David P. Daggett. The clerk was not injured. Rivera was apprehended with the money after an unsuccessful attempt to rob Lowe's of Westminster less than an hour later, Daggett said.

Rivera faced several other charges, including unauthorized use of an automobile, drug possession and probation violations. Arnold made the sentences for the lesser charges run at the same time as the terms for robbery and attempted robbery: a 20-year sentence to the state Division of Correction, suspending all but seven years, as requested by Daggett.

In a second sentencing yesterday, Arnold suspended an 18-month jail term and ordered six months' probation for John Leonard Duerr, 19, convicted of second-degree assault for running into a woman with his dirt bike last year. Daggett said the woman had received a call that kids on motorcycles were harassing horses on a farm near New Windsor and tried to block Duerr when he ran into her.

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