Worthington woman sentenced to four years for attempted robbery on Linton school property

A Worthington woman, arrested four times this year and facing three criminal cases, was in court last week to plead guilty to attempted robbery. She was sentenced to four years in prison with only one year suspended.

Justine Gardner

Justine Gardner

Justine Elizabeth Gardner, 28, Worthington, was first arrested on Monday, February 26, by Linton Police Officer Debbie McDonald in an incident that occurred on Linton-Stockton School property.

The incident began on a nearby street then moved onto school property at the close of a school day when people were in the parking lot preparing to leave the grounds. Officer McDonald was dispatched then assisted by L-S School Resource Officer Josh Goodman.

Gardner was accused of trying to pull another woman out of her vehicle and of trying to get into other vehicles while behaving erratically in an impaired condition. The incident involved several vehicles and several individuals, with numerous witnesses.

She was charged with the attempted robbery, a Level 5 felony, plus criminal trespassing, a Class A misdemeanor, and two counts of battery, both Class B misdemeanors.

A few days later, she posted $1,200 cash to bond out of jail.

On April 23, she signed a negotiated plea agreement along with Defense Attorney Ellen Martin, her public defender, and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Keven McIntosh. In that deal, she was expected to plead guilty to the attempted robbery and be sentenced to three years in the Indiana Department of Corrections with all but one year suspended and she would be eligible to serve her sentence on work release if eligible, then be on probation for one and one-half years and undergo evaluations for substance abuse and participate in any treatment deemed necessary.

That deal was taken off the table after she got into more trouble and was arrested in two different incidents in Worthington.

Her second arrest came on Sunday, July 22, in Worthington.

In this incident, Gardner was banned from two stores in Worthington after she allegedly tried to enter the back door of one store, tried to break into vehicles at the other, and was accused of stealing an employee’s cell phone.

Gardner allegedly exhibited behavior that prompted an employee of the Dollar General store to call 911 around 8 p.m. that night to report Gardner was on her way from the Dollar store to Vest’s Quik Mart and was “tweeking or on something.” Worthington Town Marshal Randy Raney responded along with WPD Deputy Marshal James Harrington.  

During the interviews to gather information on the scene, the owner of Vest’s and the assistant manager of the Dollar General both said they did not want Gardner to return and Gardner was warned that she was banned from these properties and would be arrested if she returned.

She was booked into jail by Officer Harrington then charged with theft, a Class A misdemeanor and criminal trespassing, a Class A misdemeanor.  

She posted $300 cash to bond out of jail.

The third arrest came about a week later, on Saturday, July 28, when she was found inside the Dollar General, one of the stores she had just been banned from.

WPD Deputy Marshal Russell Walls responded when the store contacted police to report Gardner was in the store. Officer Walls arrived around 5 p.m., found Gardner inside the store and informed her she was being arrested for trespassing. She was handcuffed and transported to jail again where her bond was set at $1,000 surety with ten percent cash allowed.

When Gardner posted $100 cash to bond out, she was given a date of Thursday, August 2, to appear in court for an initial hearing on the latest charge of criminal trespassing, a Class A misdemeanor.

Gardner was a no-show at the hearing so a warrant was issued for her arrest for failure to appear.

On Sunday, August 5, she was taken into custody the fourth time and booked back into the Greene County Jail where her bond in the case involving failure to appear was set at $10,000 surety with ten percent cash allowed, but she didn’t post bond. She was held without bond in one of the previous cases.

The two incidents in Worthington resulted in a petition to revoke her bond in the most serious case – the first one involving the attempted robbery in Linton. The court agreed, revoked her bond and she’s remained in the Greene County Jail since the day of her latest arrest.

On August 21, with her first deal off the table, Gardner agreed to another deal covering all three cases.

Instead of three years with all but one year suspended, and being able to serve the sentence on work release, the new deal came with a stiffer sentence.

During a hearing last Thursday morning, September 20, in Greene Superior Court, Gardner changed her plea to guilty of the attempted robbery at the school and was sentenced to four years in the Indiana Department of Corrections, with just one year suspended. She was given credit for 55 days already served.

When released, she’ll be on probation for one year and must undergo evaluations for substance abuse and participate in any treatment deemed necessary.

The state agreed to drop the other counts in the first case and the other two cases have been dismissed.