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Car thief blames actions on drugs

A man who grabbed keys from an elderly woman in a hospital parking garage and then stole her car apologized to the victim and blamed his actions on drugs.

Brent Prouse, 24, of St. Albans, confronted Mildred Carper, 80, in the Charleston Area Medical Center garage downtown Oct. 16. He said he picked her out because she looked weak.

Carper didn't appear weak at all when she stood before Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King and said Prouse robbed her of more than just a vehicle.

"You did not hurt me physically, and I'm grateful for that, but you did hurt me mentally," said the retired nurse. "You robbed me of part of my independence and destroyed my faith in people.

"Now I never park in a building when I'm alone," she said. "I never offer help to a stranger and I'm suspicious of everyone. And that is against my nature."

Prouse pleaded guilty to the crime after his family saw a surveillance video and recognized him. They turned him in and he waived a grand jury indictment. He has asked for a chance to get drug treatment.

Assistant Prosecutor Maryclaire Akers said Prouse has cooperated in his case, but she recommended that he be incarcerated. He has been held at South Central Regional Jail since his arrest.

"What he did was very serious," she said.

His attorney, Gail Michelson, said Prouse's drug problems became too much for him to handle last summer. Prior to the carjacking, Prouse broke into Capitol Mini-Storage and also robbed his own parents.

He told the judge, "It should not have happened to her. I'm not a bad person."

Prouse said he stole the car after a drug dealer offered a sale in St. Albans. He asked Carper to forgive him.

King asked Carper for input on Prouse's sentence.

"What would you like to see me do in Mr. Prouse's case?" he asked her.

"I'm not qualified to say, except he needs help with his drug problem," she answered.

Prouse could be sentenced to five to 18 years in prison. His attorney asked that a prison sentence be deferred to see if he could get into a program for addicts or a facility for youthful offenders. 

King said, "This is not a run-of-the-mill case. I understand Mrs. Carper and the terror she felt and the invasion of her person and privacy. But at the same time Mr. Prouse has a problem with drugs, which we see all too much."

The judge said he would consider Prouse's case and set sentencing for another date.

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at or 304-348-4832.


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