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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Purse snatchers drag woman by car 20 feet, breaking her pelvis, in Spokane Valley Walmart parking lot

Kathy Kohlieber isn’t mad. She’s just disappointed.

Her pelvis is broken and there’s a chance she may not walk the same again, but if given the chance to face her muggers, she’d settle for a stern lecture over formal punishment.

“I would just like to talk to them,” the 75-year-old said from her hospital bed at MultiCare Valley Hospital on Monday. “I wouldn’t even cuss them out.”

On Saturday, Kohlieber was the victim of an apparently random purse snatching that left her badly injured on the ground at a Walmart parking lot. Police believe her accused attackers, 18-year-old Katie Kinney and 20-year-old Trystan Clark, were involved in a string of purse snatchings targeting older women in grocery store parking lots.

Both were arrested Sunday on suspicion of robbery. The crimes occurred at Albertsons and Walmart stores in north Spokane, Target on the South Hill, and the Walmart on Sprague Avenue in Spokane Valley, where Kohlieber said she could have been killed.

Her ordeal began sometime between 6 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday as she left the store where she made an impromptu stop for a bag of Cosmos brand Caramel Popcorn. The store didn’t have any. As she walked to her car, she felt a tug.

“This car came up from behind on my left side,” Kohlieber said. “I didn’t even see it coming. The guy stuck his arm out the window, and he got his arm through the strap on my purse.”

The purse was up high on her shoulder, so when the man tried ripping it from her arm he instead took all of her with him. She was dragged for about 20 feet, she estimates, before she hit the ground.

“Of course, my purse came off and down I went,” she said.

It wasn’t over yet. As she lay on the pavement, Kohlieber said, the car started backing up and nearly ran her over before witnesses were able to pound on the trunk and alert the female driver. The car then took off, and without a rear license plate remained at large, police said, until officers found it Sunday morning in the 600 block of East Houston Avenue.

Kohlieber, meanwhile, was taken to the hospital for treatment, not sleeping a wink the entire first night there.

“I’m never leaving home with a purse again,” she said. “I hate it here.”

Kohlieber moved from Bainbridge Island near Seattle in 2008 to Spokane in order to be closer to family. On the West Side and in Alaska, she spent a career working for airlines selling tickets and booking reservations.

She said she often regrets the decision to move, especially after incidents like the one Saturday.

But her story does have a few silver linings. While doctors did determine she broke her pelvis, and at her age it’s uncertain how that will heal, she said a certain Spokane Valley deputy did go out of his way to make her stay at the hospital more bearable.

“Sam Turner,” she said. “He was enough to put a smile on my face. The only one I had that day.”

Kohlieber said not only did Turner stay with her for several hours to help cancel her credit cards, he also returned to the hospital hours later with her favorite caramel snack.

“Isn’t that cute?” she said. “That was very perceptive of him.”

Deputies also were able to recover her stolen purse, mostly intact but without $150 in cash. Her wallet, credit cards, debit cards, false teeth and cell phone were there.

The purse snatchers even showed an inkling of regret. From Kohlieber’s stolen cellphone was a message to a friend of hers, sent after the thieves had taken her purse.

“Her purse is on the corner of Fairview and Ralph,” it reads. “I’m sorry.”