2 in jail after woman bypasses register, exits store pushing full shopping cart

Stock photo | St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Las Vegas woman accused of exiting four retailers with merchandise she allegedly didn’t pay for is in jail on theft and drug-related charges. She reportedly told officers she was selling the stolen items to provide for her children.

Stock photo | St. George News

On Sunday, officers responded to a sporting goods store on River Road in St. George shortly after 4 p.m. on a report of a retail theft in progress, according to charging documents filed with the court.

Officers arrived to learn the suspect left the store driving a tan Toyota passenger car after leaving the store with a shopping cart full of merchandise reportedly never paid for.

Officers began a canvass of the area in search of the Toyota that headed north on River Road.

Meanwhile, officers viewed the store’s security footage that revealed a woman exit the store with a cart full of items without paying. She was 5-foot-6, 160 pounds, wearing a tan dress, Nike tennis shoes with brown hair and glasses.

Officers learned the woman entered the store pushing a baby stroller approximately 30 minutes before the incident, and after looking around the store, she returned to the parking lot where she put the stroller in the trunk of the Toyota before returning to the store.

The woman filled the shopping cart with multiple items and then walked out. Officers also could read the license plate of the vehicle from another video capturing the car leaving, but could not determine which state it was issued out of.

An “attempt to locate” was broadcast to all officers to be on the lookout for the car.

2012 file photo of Dick’s Sporting Goods on South River Road in St. George, Utah | St. George News

Officers obtained owner information for the Toyota and reached out to one of the owners who lived in Indiana, but she told police it was her ex-husband who lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, who was driving the car. She also said it would be “very unlikely” that her ex would commit any crimes, adding he rented the car at various times using a rental application.

Officers confirmed the car was rented using a “Turo” application, and the co-owner in Las Vegas told officers he had a photo of the woman to whom he rented the car, as well as all of their contact information.

The woman who rented the Toyota was identified by her Nevada Driver’s License as Jazmin Wilcox, out of Las Vegas. When officers received the photo, they realized she did not match the suspect in the footage captured at the sporting goods store.

They contacted Wilcox, who confirmed she rented the Toyota the previous day and was due to return it on Monday. She also told officers she had been in Las Vegas all day, adding she picked up the car at noon from a rental stall located in a hotel parking lot, and then parked the car in a non-rental stall in the same parking lot.

In the meantime, officers in St. George located the tan Toyota at a gas station on South Bluff Street, which is when the woman, who matched the suspect captured on the store’s surveillance footage, and the man driving, were both detained by police.

While speaking to the occupants, officers noticed there were two Nike shoe boxes in the backseat of the car that appeared new.

The woman handed officers her California driver’s license identifying her as Meagan Payne, while the male was identified as 37-year-old Kortel Terell Burks, also from Las Vegas.

Payne told police her friend, “Jazmin” had rented the vehicle for her in Las Vegas, and she traveled to St. George with Burks, and that “all they did was go to a friend’s house.”

When the officer brought up the security footage, she admitted to taking items from the store without paying for them, adding she only took the items so she could sell them to “provide for her kids,” the officer noted.

The woman also stated that Burks was aware she was stealing items after the fact and said he was angry but he understood why she was doing so. When asked, Burke reportedly told officers he slept during the drive to St. George and was shown two pairs of Nike shoes only after he was awakened when they reached the grocery store on Bluff Street.

During a search of the car, officers located the property reportedly taken from the sporting goods store, along with other merchandise from four other big-box retailers, all of which appeared to be brand new with the tags still on them, but with no receipts, according to the report.

Officers also recovered a woman’s purse and inside they found several cards in the name of Las Vegas resident Jessica Tee-Marie Battaglia, which turned out to be the 29-year-old Payne’s real name.

2018 Stock image of “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign in Las Vegas, Nevada. September 18, 2018 Stock photo.| Photo by
Vitaly Edush/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Officers also found two bank cards that did not belong to either suspect, along with an electronic scale covered with a white powdery substance that appeared to be methamphetamine.

Battaglia and Burks were arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility shortly before 11:30 p.m. and were booked into jail.

Battaglia faces second-degree felony retail theft, along with two counts of unlawful acquisition of a financial card and three third-degree felony charges, including one count of possessing illegal items into a correctional facility, a charge that was submitted after corrections officers recovered a baggie of suspected methamphetamine from Battaglia’s mouth.

She also faces one misdemeanor count each of providing false information with intent to be another actual person, possession of another’s identifying documents and possession of a controlled substance and paraphernalia.

Burks was booked into jail on one third-degree felony charge of shoplifting. He was released from custody later that same night, while Battaglia remains in jail on $5,000 bail.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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