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Belle woman sentenced for robbing bank

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A Belle woman was sentenced to five to 18 years in prison for robbing a local bank last fall.

Jennifer Lee Garretson, 37, walked into the City National Bank on Oct. 12 and passed a note to a teller that said she had a gun. She demanded cash, which police later found at her home.

Despite an impassioned plea from her defense attorney and family for a different punishment, Kanawha Circuit Judge Jim Stucky sent Garretson to prison for the crime.

She pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery in April.

Garretson's attorney, public defender Zoe Shavers, and two family members said her troubles were connected to drug addiction. Shavers asked Kanawha Circuit Judge Jim Stucky to impose home confinement or probation, with drug treatment.

"Jennifer was on top of the world," said her mother, Laurie Roberts. "She was a wonderful mother. Then she was on medication and it all just spiraled."

She said Garretson moved from prescription pain pills taken for a back injury to other substances. She was never successful at rehabilitation, despite several attempts.

Shavers brought in a sentencing advocate who works for the Kanawha Public Defenders Office to testify about addiction.

Stephanne Thornton told Stucky that Garretson's judgment might have been impaired by her addiction when she held up the bank. She proposed a residential treatment facility. 

Assistant Prosecutor Chuck Miller objected to a sentence other than prison. He said he also had concerns about Garretson's relationship to her husband, who was charged as an accessory in the crime.

Police said Gary Garretson drove the getaway car and helped his wife hide the money. Charges against him were later dropped.

"The husband still seems to be in the picture," Miller told the judge. "And that's problematic for the state."

Garretson's sister took the witness stand and cried as she told of a woman whose life was ruined by drugs.

Garretson turned to her family members and whispered, "I love you guys."

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cherylc@dailymail.com or 304-348-4832.

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