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Woman gets five years for two island burglaries

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN, (Week of September 5, 2013)

Carole Ellis, who broke into two barrier island homes last summer and stole valuable antiques and jewelry to pawn them for cash and feed a drug habit, has been convicted of two counts of burglary of a dwelling and drug possession and sentenced to five years in prison.

Criminal Court Judge Robert L. Pegg turned down her passionate plea to give her probation because she said she had become “an unbelievably good person” in jail.

“Please give me a second chance, again,” pleaded Ellis, 33, who had been previously convicted of two other felonies, including theft of a firearm.

Victim Pat Kotecki, from whom Ellis stole two diamond rings valued at over $11,000, listened in court as Ellis told the judge she had become addicted to crack cocaine and oxycodone in 2010 after her husband committed suicide in front of her and died in her arms.

“I did something that wasn’t nice. I told him to go ahead and do it,” said Ellis, who added that guilt over his death had driven her to drugs to dull the emotional pain, and stealing to feed her habit.

Before the suicide, she stressed, she had never been in trouble. Apparently, she forgot a felony conviction for child abuse in New Mexico in 2005, which shows up in Sante Fe County court records.

Speaking with passion about her latest troubles, she told Pegg: “The animal who stole from those innocent people is not me.”

Along with the conviction for robbing the Kotecki home on Club Drive, Ellis was also convicted of breaking into the home of Bob and Leslie Abbott in Pebble Bay. There, she stole framed family letters from Aaron Burr, appraised at over $20,000, selling them to Sebastian Antiques for $300.

When she was charged with the break-ins and burglaries of the two barrier island homes, she was already in jail, charged with cocaine possession, the theft of a firearm and selling stolen property.

After wanting to die as an emaciated, thieving drug addict, Ellis said she found herself in jail, gaining 50 pounds, going to the chapel and attending regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings “wanting to live and doing me better than I’ve ever done me before.”

She wanted probation, she told the judge, so she could get her three children – 4, 11 and 12 years old – out of foster homes under DCF custody and hold their hands, while telling them about God. And, she wanted to pay restitution to the Abbotts and Koteckis, which would amount to about $35,000.

Practically shouting, she told the court: “If it takes $100 a paycheck for the rest of my life, that’s fine.”

She didn’t say what kind of work she would do, but mentioned that in jail she had discovered she could “draw like nobody’s business.”

While he appreciated her confession and her remorse, Judge Pegg said the victims’ right to be safe in their homes with their belongings took precedence over her promises to do better. He sentenced her to five years in jail, which will be four with time served.

As Pegg read the sentence, Ellis interrupted him, turning to the people sitting in the courtroom – including Pat Kotecki – and tearfully yelled: “My children!  What about my children?”

Kotecki said she had felt “somewhat sorry for her” until she learned of Ellis’ child abuse conviction when her children were 3 and 4 years old. She received probation in that case.

“She needs to do some time. Then, let’s hope she’ll get out, pull herself up by her bootstraps and be the person she described in court,” said Kotecki.