A 20-year-old man who as a teenager terrorized Spokane payday loan stores in a drug-fueled armed robbery spree was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday.
Before Zachary T. Allen apologized for his crimes, family members described a sweet boy with a bright future who lost his way to the prescription drug OxyContin.
“I sincerely wish everyone had a chance to know Zach like I know him, before the bad influence of people and drugs,” said his older sister, Kiley Allen.
Testimony from Allen’s family came after a court official read a prepared statement from a clerk was so terrorized by Allen that she quit her job at a north Spokane payday loan center and has reoccurring nightmares.
“In my dream, I didn’t make it out of the situation alive,” Jennifer Counts wrote.
Allen’s robberies came at the height of Spokane’s OxyContin-fueled crimes –which has included dozens of robberies by mostly young men with no criminal records.
He and his then-girlfriend, Kimberley A. Norman, went on a month-long robbery spree in January 2009 that led some stores to lock their doors and demand customers to show identification before entering. Even then, Allen tried robbing one of the businesses – screaming and banging on the door as the clerk hid.
The two were arrested Feb. 6, 2009, after police detectives identified them through confidential informants, high school yearbooks and MySpace postings, according to court documents.
“You made some choices that horrified this community and terrified this community,” said Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno before approving a plea deal Wednesday that sends Allen to prison for 129 months.
He pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree robbery and one count of attempted first-degree robbery.
“I just want you to know that I’m not a bad person,” Allen told Moreno. “I just got myself in a bad situation, a very bad situation.”
In exchange for Allen’s plea, prosecutors dismissed one charge of first-degree kidnapping that stemmed from him holding Counts against her will at Check n Go, 6411 N. Division St., while a 10-minute time-release safe opened.
“Those were the longest 10 minutes of my entire life,” Counts wrote in a letter read in court. “All I could do was stand there with the gun pointed at me and cry.”
Allen robbed six stores after that – including two Check into Cash stores just hours apart.
After the loan shops began locking their doors, he went up Division to the Shopko pharmacy and robbed an employee of OxyContin at gunpoint.
Allen used a BB gun in all the robberies.
His mother, Donna Allen, said Wednesday that Allen was prescribed painkillers for a motocross injury when he was 15.
“We would later realize that was the beginning of the end,” she said. “He spiraled out of control. The rest is just a horrible, horrible nightmare.”
Norman, who drove Allen to and from seven robberies but never went inside the stores, pleaded guilty to second-degree rendering criminal assistance in December. She was credited for 48 days spent in jail and ordered to perform 450 hours of community service.
The two are prohibited by a court order from contacting each other.
Nathan K. Webb, a 26-year-old man accused of driving Allen to and from a robbery on Jan. 29, 2009, is charged with first-degree robbery. His trial is set for April.