The homeless Kansas City mother of six who drew national attention and community support after a police officer compassionately bought diapers she was shoplifting is facing a federal drug charge.
Sarah Jane Robinson was booked Friday into the Wyandotte County jail on a hold by the U.S. Marshals Service. She was being held until she could be transferred to appear on a drug charge in the U.S. District Court in St. Louis.
A spokeswoman for the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that Robinson was the same woman helped by the officer.
Robinson’s mother was taking care of her six children, said David Langston, the attorney representing Robinson on the shoplifting charge. He said Robinson had been staying at an extended-stay hotel, which was not big enough for her family. She would visit her children daily.
A federal grand jury in St. Louis indicted Robinson on July 1 with knowingly and intentionally possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it. The alleged crime occurred in March 2014 in Lincoln County, Missouri.
Federal prosecutors have asked that she be detained pending trial because she faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if found guilty. Prosecutors also say she’s a threat to the community and that there’s a serious risk she will flee.
Langston said it’s important to remember that the federal charge is an allegation of wrongdoing that happened more than a year ago. He said that Robinson “has been trying to put her life back on track.”
Robinson’s plight gained community support and national attention when she and her daughter were stopped on July 6 for shoplifting at the Wal-Mart at 51st Street and Roe Boulevard in Roeland Park.
When Roeland Park Police Officer Mark Engravalle saw Robinson’s crying, dirty and barefoot children, he bought shoes for the children and the diapers and baby wipes Robinson was trying to steal. Robinson’s children were 15, 13, 12, 4, and 2-year-old twins at the time.
Robinson told Engravalle that her husband had drowned in 2011 and that the family had been living out of their car. She said she became desperate after she and her family were kicked out of where they were staying. They were unable to retrieve their belongings.
Engravalle’s kindness generated national and international attention and prompted others to help. People donated cash, clothing, blankets, nonperishable food, toiletries and other items one Saturday in July at the Roeland Park Police Department. The department received more than $6,000 in donations.
Robinson has had to justify expenses before donated money was released by the bank, Langston said.
Robinson has talked about how she felt blessed and how a number of people had reached out to help and offered a place to live:
“We went from staying in a car and renting a room to now being able to look for a place to live and pick out a place that we can like and it’s not falling down and gross.”