PALMER -- The two women charged with the Halloween robbery of seven elementary school trick-or-treaters in Talkeetna are facing long prison terms.
At her first court appearance Wednesday, Kendra Butts, 18, of Wasilla held sheets of paper in front of her face to block the view of cameras in the gallery.
As she waited for the judge, she directed a string of invectives at the media, at one point holding up her middle finger and saying, "Trick-or-treat this."
Magistrate David Zwink informed Butts of the six robbery and seven assault counts she faces and said that each robbery count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, with each assault count carrying a maximum of five years.
According to Richard Payne at the Palmer District Attorney's office, the required sentence for robbery armed with a gun is seven years.
Alaska state troopers found Butts hiding Tuesday in a crawl space in a Big Lake home. Amber Martin, 20, was arrested Nov. 2 at a traffic stop initiated by Houston police, according to troopers.
Butts and Martin face identical charges. They are being held at the Mat-Su Pre-Trial Facility in lieu of $75,000 and $50,000 bail, respectively.
Troopers say the robbery occurred just after 5 p.m. Oct. 31 as the children, ages 10 and 11, made their rounds on Talkeetna's Main Street. Two women wearing ski masks jumped from a Dodge truck. One pointed a revolver at the children, demanded the candy, then fired one shot into the air, according to troopers. They made off with six bags of candy and an iPhone, troopers said.
Sgt. Craig Allen of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation said troopers are still looking for the phone, which was handed over in one of the candy bags. A parent had sent it along in case of an emergency.
iPhone service is available through only one carrier, AT&T, which does not provide subscriber service in Alaska. However, someone with an iPhone and an AT&T account elsewhere has roaming service in Alaska, said Joe Schaafsma of the MacHaus in Wasilla.
Amanda Stossel, a reporter for radio station KTNA and a mother of three who lives in Talkeetna, said life there for the most part has returned to normal, although a "definite sense of defensiveness" persists, she said.
"I'm talking to lots of people in the community who, I guess, are offended that our kids are made to feel unsafe, that they should be able to walk around trick-or-treating and that somebody would ruin that," she said Thursday.
Stossel's own 12-year-old son was out that night, walking not far behind the accosted group, she said.
OTHER STOLEN GOODS
The bizarre nature of the crime still baffles people, she said.
"How messed up can you be, to be holding kids up for candy?" she said. No one in Talkeetna would have thought twice had even teenagers knocked and asked for candy on Halloween.
"It was all free to begin with," she said. "People would not have blinked."
Allen estimated 15 troopers had worked the case to some degree.
On Monday, troopers announced that information gleaned in the investigation had led them to a $70,000 cache of stolen vehicles, tools and travel trailers near Montana Creek Road. They items were stolen during several recent Talkeetna-area burglaries, Allen said.
Tuesday, Allen said no one has been charged with the burglaries.
Troopers, he said, are waiting on grand jury returns before they can speak more freely about the arrests. He said he expects both cases will go to the grand jury today, but said it's out of his hands.
Troopers had been looking for Butts and Martin since their respective boyfriends, Michael Scott Wilson and Aaron Tolen, both 24 of Wasilla, were arrested Oct. 31.
Wilson told troopers that Butts and Martin met up with him shortly after the robbery and told him about it, troopers said. Tolen told troopers he knew nothing about it, according to troopers.
Wilson and Tolen were arrested at Latitude 62, a Talkeetna bar and restaurant not far from the Main Street robbery site, after showing up in a truck bearing the license plate number the children provided troopers, troopers said.
Neither has been charged with the robbery, but they are being held at the Mat-Su Pre-Trial Facility on outstanding warrants and for hindering prosecution and providing false information.
Tolen was also charged with theft after he was searched at the jail and found with the badge from a trooper's hat, according to troopers.
Find reporter Andrew Wellner online at adn.com/contact/awellner or call him at 352-6710.