An Ohio woman who says she was just hungry was charged with stealing $2.87 in change from a public fountain earlier this month in a theft case that left some scratching their heads.
Deidre Romine, of Bellefontaine, was walking by the Logan County Courthouse on Oct. 7 when she noticed all the loose change shimmering at the bottom of the fountain out front.
Mentally disabled and struggling to make ends meet, Romine reached down and began to gather up the pennies.
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She was then approached by a police officer who recovered $2.87 from her pocket.
"Soon as the cop asked me what I was doing and I was afraid to tell him. The money didn't belong to anybody so I just took it out of there," Romine told Ohio's local 10TVNews.com
. "I'm trying to feed myself and I've got four cats I'm raising and I'm trying to feed them."
The officer charged Romine with petty theft and handed her a summons for a court appearance. Though Romine claims she was later told that the charges were dropped, Bellefontaine Chief of Police Brandon Standley told ConnectToHome.com
— a homeless services organization — that records indicate Romine's case is still active.
Some say it's not even clear whether Romine committed any crime. Tim Steinhelfer, a local resident who recently graduated from law school, argues that she did not.
"The coins in question are abandoned property," he told ConnectToHome.com. "It is axiomatic that abandoned property cannot be stolen."
That's what Romine thought, too.
"It's no one's money. People throw it in there," Romine said. "People do this every year... They throw coins in the fountain. I've never done this before [taken any out]. I will never do it again. I didn’t know it was wrong. It was mostly pennies in there… It's just been a really rough year… I haven’t worked. I am trying the best I can."
She said she is about to be kicked out of her apartment because she can't afford it. She receives $300 a month from Social Security because of a disability and food stamps but "it's not enough."
"You know, I am trying to find a job," Romine told ConnectToHome.com. "I am filling out applications all the time. No one will hire me."
Many residents were outraged that Romine was charged at all. One man, Will Zell, even started a fundraising page on GoFundMe to raise money for Romine
. So far, more than 285 people have donated more than $8,000.
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