Thefts from homes net woman five years

Drug user gained access by asking elderly people for water or to use phone

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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A Vancouver woman was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for hoodwinking elderly victims into letting her into their homes and then stealing their money and valuables when they weren't looking.

Christina L. Higdon, 40, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to one count of first-degree theft, nine counts of second-degree theft, three counts of third-degree theft, possession of stolen property, unlawful possession of payment instruments and possession of methamphetamine.

"In my short time on the bench, I think I've seen quite a bit of the human condition," said Judge David Gregerson. "I have to say this displays stunning amorality."

Gregerson said he was particularly disturbed by the "predatory nature" of the crimes, in which Higdon targeted elderly people who were willing to "help out a neighbor" by allowing her to use the phone or have a drink of water.

"It disheartened me a lot," victim Patricia Dunford said of the crime. Dunford, 70, allowed Higdon into her home after Higdon asked to use the phone. Higdon ran off with Dunford's purse containing $850 in cash, which Dunford had planned to use to pay her bills. Dunford said she couldn't chase Higdon because she has bad knees.

Deputy Prosecutor Scott Ikata said four of the victims were considered "particularly vulnerable" under state law because three had in-home care, and one used an oxygen tank. As part of the plea, Prosecuting Attorney's Office declined to dismiss any of Higdon's charges, including a vulnerable adult aggravator, and recommended the five-year sentence. Five years is greater than the standard sentence range of 43 to 57 months, Ikata said. However, the vulnerable adult aggravator would have allowed the judge to go beyond the standard range and sentence Higdon up to 10 years in prison, under state law.

Higdon's court-appointed attorney, Ed Dunkerly, indicated that Higdon agreed to plead guilty in order to avoid the risk of an up to 10-year prison sentence.

"We came to the conclusion this was the best resolution," Dunkerly said.

Higdon apologized to her victims and blamed her actions on her drug habit.

"I would not have done anything like that, had I not been on drugs," she said.

She also faces a sentence in District Court for violating the conditions of Drug Court. Her criminal history dates back to 1998, but this will be Higdon's first prison sentence, Dunkerly said.

In addition to her prison time, she'll be required to complete two years of probation, Ikata said.


Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts; paris.achen@columbian.com.