The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 8, 2013

Woman says she’s an addict, not monster

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER COUNTY — A Farrell woman who claimed not to be the monster she said she has been portrayed as in newspaper stories describing her alleged misdeeds has been sent to prison for some of them.

“It’s my addiction,” Joy A. Howell said. “I can’t shake this addiction.”

Howell, 36, of 930 Hamilton Ave., said she has been through many rehabilitations to try to rid her back of the monkey that has sat there for 22 years.

Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson told Howell she has not bought into recovery.

“In a sense, your recovery must be your addiction,” he said Thursday. “You must fight every day of your life. It’s a choice. There is no cure for addiction other than the choice not to use.”

Dobson sentenced Howell on charges of theft and felony retail theft to 9 months to 2 years in prison, but noted that, with 179 days’ credit and her eligibility under a good-time program, she could walk out the door much sooner.

“If you stay out of trouble, you’ll basically be out in half a month,” he said. “If you stay out of trouble.”

Howell has another case pending that could derail her access to freedom.

Howell pleaded guilty in December to theft for accepting money from people in Hermitage after giving them the phony story that she had young children in her car, was pregnant and diabetic and needed money for gas. She also stole a wallet from a woman who gave her a ride and stole money from the cash register of a business when she asked an employee to use the phone. Howell must pay $678 restitution.

Dobson said one of Howell’s victims was anorexic and “just as fragile as you are.”

Southwest Mercer County Regional police have charged Howell with theft, access device fraud, forgery and possession of drug paraphernalia for stealing a wallet Jan. 9 from a woman who gave her a ride from Farrell and Sharon, and using the woman’s debit cards and personal checks to buy items ranging from a video game system and a futon to cigarettes and gasoline at businesses in Mercer, Lawrence and Trumbull counties.

The total amount stolen was $1,719, police said.

When Howell was arrested Jan. 30 in Farrell, she had a metal spoon with residue on it, suspected drug paraphernalia, police said.