Shoplifter who hit officer with car gets prison sentence
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A woman who seriously injured an off-duty state trooper by hitting him with her car in a St. Albans shopping center was sentenced to two to ten years in prison.
Jennifer Elaine Garretson, 35, blamed her actions on New Year's Eve to her drug addiction. She turned to Trooper Aaron Nichols in the courtroom and said she never meant to hurt him.
But Nichols said that night changed his life forever.
"She chose to steal," he said of the shoplifting event he attempted to stop. "She chose to run. She chose to hit me with her car. She chose to not stop. And she chose to throw me off her car.
"My family has spent a year of suffering because of her actions," he said.
Nichols pursued Garretson when she set off alarms leaving the store with stolen clothes. She jumped into her car and veered toward him as he tried to stop her. When he threw himself onto the trunk, she sped up and he fell off, according to witnesses.
He spent three weeks in a hospital. A serious head injury cost him his sense of taste and smell, caused permanent hearing loss and he also doesn't have full use of one arm. He has returned to work, but not to full duty.
Garretson's mother, in a wheelchair and on oxygen, told Circuit Judge James Stucky that her daughter was a good mother and a hard worker who put herself through college. She called her a compassionate woman who fell under the grip of prescription medication.
Garretson was a Child Protective Services worker for the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
"She's never been a violent person, ever," said Sharon Harris. "She called me that night to say she was going to spend the night with me and after New Year's she wanted me to help her detox.
"The next call I heard from her she said, "I didn't mean to hurt anybody," " Harris said.
"She's very remorseful," Harris told the judge.
Assistant Prosecutor Chuck Miller asked her, "You talk about remorse, but when she took off through that parking lot and threw him off ..."
"That's his story, not her story," Harris said.
"He could have been dead," Miller said. "And she took off and drove away, didn't she?"
"I blame her addiction," Harris said.
"Do you not think she should be punished," he asked her. "She could be here on a murder charge, but for the grace of God."
Garretson is serving a term at Lakin Correctional Center for forgery charges out of Putnam County. She asked the judge to sentence her consecutively with that, but he denied the request.
Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4832.