Accused shoplifters face assault charges

Published 8:28 am Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Carter County man and woman face felony charges after police say she pepper sprayed employees of a local store and he nearly ran over an off-duty police officer during a botched shoplifting attempt over the weekend.
On Monday, officers of the Elizabethton Police Department arrested Nicole Morton, 39, of 130 Cripple Creek Loop, Watauga, and Stephen Brian Pritchard, 47, of 119 Pleasant Beach Road, Elizabethton, in connection with the Sunday incident. Officers charged Morton with aggravated assault and Pritchard with aggravated assault, evading arrest and violation of the Habitual Motor Offender law.
On Sunday, officers of the EPD were called to Walmart, 1001 Overmountain Drive, on a report of a shoplifting in progress and were told store employees had tried to detain the suspect.
While en route to the call, EPD Officer Joe Holsclaw learned the woman had sprayed two store employees in the face with pepper spray and fled. Holsclaw also learned the EPD Investigator Joseph Harrah, who was off duty at the time, had witnessed the incident.
When Holsclaw arrived at the store, Walmart loss prevention officer Joshua Henegar and assistant manager Thomas Glover told him they saw a woman later identified as Morton select several items in the store, walk past the registers and try to leave. When they tried to apprehend her, she pulled pepper spray out of her purse and sprayed them with it, he said.
According to Henegar and Glover, Morton made it out of the store and got into a red Chevrolet truck with a man. The two then left the parking lot headed toward West Elk Avenue.
Henegar told police Morton had shoplifted from his store before and that Pritchard had been with her during one of those incidents.
EPD Investigator Harrah told Holsclaw he saw the incident take place and tried to stop the car in the parking lot.
“Mr. Pritchard looked at (Harrah) as he identified himself as a police officer and commanded him to stop, but (Pritchard) refused and drove off, nearly hitting him with the vehicle,” Holsclaw said.
Harrah was able to get the tag number for the vehicle and turned it over to Holsclaw.
A check of Pritchard’s driver’s license revealed it had been revoked and that the state had declared him a habitual motor offender. Pritchard’s driving history shows he has 29 offenses of driving while his license was revoked or suspended.
Holsclaw obtained warrants charging the two in connection with the Walmart incident. Police arrested them Monday and took them to the Carter County Detention Center.
Both Morton and Pritchard appeared in Carter County General Sessions Court, where they were arraigned. Judge Keith Bowers appointed attorney Ryann Jeffers to represent Morton and set her next court appearance for Oct. 16. Bowers appointed the Public Defender’s Office to represent Pritchard and set his next court appearance for Monday.

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