Drug-addicted robber gets federal prison term for holding up pharmacy

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Rosie Mullaley
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Twenty-three-year-old was a first-time offender

A knife-wielding woman who was stopped from robbing a pharmacy by having a garbage bucket thrown over her head will spend a lot of time in the can.

Raquel Sonier is escorted out of provincial court in St. John’s Wednesday after she was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail for holding up a drugstore.

Raquel Sonier of St. John’s was sentenced to 31 1/2 months in provincial court Wednesday.

Judge Robert Hyslop gave her

42 days straight-time credit for the time she’s already served in jail, leaving 30 months on her term.

The 23-year-old pleaded guilty to armed robbery, possessing a weapon and breaching a recognizance.

She was charged after she held up the pharmacy at Shopper’s Drug Mart on Freshwater Road Dec. 11, 2013.

That afternoon, Sonier took a cab to the store, walked behind the counter at the pharmacy, approach­ed the pharmacist on duty and demanded methodone. When the pharmacist backed off, Sonier grabbed her neck, breaking the pharmacist’s necklace.

A second female pharmacist working in a back office heard screams and ran out. When she saw Sonier with a knife in her hand, she threw a garbage bucket over Sonier’s head and kicked her, causing Sonier to buckle at the knees. The second pharmacist and two male customers held Sonier down until police arrived shortly after.

Sonier admitted to police what she did and said it was because she was a drug addict and was having withdrawal symptoms, including body chills.

Sonier had been released from jail after her initial court appearance, but was jailed Jan. 30 of this year for failing to sign in at RNC headquarters, one of the conditions of her recognizance.

Both pharmacists on duty the day of the robbery wrote victim impact statements, which were read in court by the judge. The women said they suffered emotional and psychological effects from the incident.

“I feel a loss of security at work,” wrote one of the pharmacists, who underwent counselling. “I fear it will happen again.”

Crown prosecutor Sheldon Steeves recommended a three-year sentence, noting the seriousness of the incident and the effect it’s had on the pharmacists, who he said were vulnerable because of their line of work.

Defence lawyer Jason Edwards said 30 months was more appropriate because Sonier is a youthful, first-time offender who needs help for her addiction.

He said Sonier has been abusing drugs since the age of 11 and was dismissed from the methodone program last year for missing appointments.

“That turned her recovery into a tailspin,” Edwards said. “Things were getting out of hand.”

He said Sonier has a four-year-old son and she wants to get her life straightened out.

Sonier cried when Edwards spoke of her son.

Hyslop said it was unfortunate what Sonier was going through, but what she did was serious — using a weapon.

“This could’ve been so much more serious. Fortunately, it wasn’t,” the judge said, “not due to (Sonier), but to the alertness and outright heroism of (the pharmacist).”

While Hyslop said he doesn’t want to encourage people to engage in that type of response, he commended the woman for her quick actions.

“Clearly, this is a case of a troubled young woman,” said the judge.

He said Sonier was operating with a somewhat reduced mental capacity due to her withdrawal symptoms at the time.

However, Hyslop added that she had no regard for the safety of the pharmacists, who work in a business which helps the health and safety of the community.

The sentence included a $300 victim surcharge and a 10-year weapons prohibition. Sonier must also submit a DNA sample.

 

Rgillingham@thetelegram

Twitter: @TelyCourt

Geographic location: Freshwater Road

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Recent comments

  • Mary LeBlanc
    May 19, 2014 - 03:02

    Everyone with a pea brain,Even the chief of police of Toronto ( which has one of the best police forces in Canada) said, ..NEVER fight back when someone is threatening you with a weapon.Because of a greedy stupid brainless wanna be hero pharmacist who is looking for a free vacation now...it's called compensation folks.All over a bit of methadone a customer or any other person could of been seriously hurt, because of the so-called "hero" pharmacist.There are dozens of cases in Canada, where they did a stupid move such as what that pharmacist did and a lot of people died. Also, for Raquel , And being a fist time offender...a young woman who has a drug problem should be in rehab because jail won't help her.Jail will just teach her how to use a gun next time instead of a knife when doing a hold up.So all because of this stupid pharmacist she will probably come out of jail hard, and will have easier access to more serious weapons . Jail will only make things worse especially for a sincere first time offender..You people will see, and I am not ever shopping at that pharmacy again because of the pharmacists..who endangers the lives of other customers.Don't make me cringe....the pharmacists got some counseling? The one who really needs counseling and is not getting it properly, if not at all is poor Raquel.Anyone who doesn't believe me watch the pharmacists in the near future claim they need time off and get compensation which is tax payers money.Ending...no body wins in this case. Only rehab would of been the proper answer .Also what bothers me is a pharmacist said she feels a loss of security at her workplace..um...really?? Don't make me laugh.There are people that have REAL dangerous jobs everyday AND they face the unfortunate.Police, Military, Firemen, Taxi drivers, Convenience store cashiers,Sex workers..I could go on and on. Pharmacy's do get robbed on occasion but what the dramatic pharmacists did was not right at which in my opinion is sub par to what tiny skinny little Raquel did. So if your're so traumatized pharmacists maybe you shouldnt't be working with medicine that people have addictions to, you know this when you go to school..right? That some medicines are extremely addicting? Or did you live in your fairy tail land up until this situation came and slapped you right in the face. Get real.

  • Charles Johnston
    March 14, 2014 - 13:18

    So unfortunate. Detox is difficult though, to add to the conversation. I was addicted to heroin for years and it was almost impossible to kick. Detox centers are extremely difficult as well, the withdrawals are intense, and it can take years and years to overcome the addiction mentality. I still do not understand why we aren't exploring other drugs such as Ibogaine for drug treatment. These drugs are proven to reset the brain and eliminate withdrawals. But, because the government decided years ago they were of no medical use, they are illegal in the US. Meanwhile, the illegal nature of these drugs causes more violent crimes. And locking people up is our alternative because we aren't willing to explore other methods of treating drug addiction.

  • Charles Johnston
    March 14, 2014 - 13:16

    So unfortunate. Detox is difficult though, to add to the conversation. I was addicted to heroin for years and it was almost impossible to kick. Detox centers are extremely difficult as well, the withdrawals are intense, and it can take years and years to overcome the addiction mentality. I still do not understand why we aren't exploring other drugs such as Ibogaine for drug treatment. These drugs are proven to reset the brain and eliminate withdrawals. But, because the government decided years ago they were of no medical use, they are illegal in the US. Meanwhile, the illegal nature of these drugs causes more violent crimes. And locking people up is our alternative because we aren't willing to explore other methods of treating drug addiction.

  • Jim Fossa
    March 13, 2014 - 19:55

    Great work by the police. They spend all of their time on Marijuana and you hardly ever hear about hard drugs. Unfortunately, you don't see pot heads armed robbing drug stores.

  • Bill
    March 13, 2014 - 14:31

    Crown prosecutor recommended a three-year sentence. Defence lawyer said 30 months was more appropriate. It must be easy being a judge these days.

  • Louis Humphreys
    March 13, 2014 - 11:19

    It's beyond me how some provinces in Canada give methadone to imprisoned addicts. This just keeps the addiction going.

  • MARY
    March 13, 2014 - 10:32

    THESE PEOPLE NEED HELP AND METHADONE IS NOT THE ANSWER. TAKING ONE DRUG TO GET OFF ANOTHER IS NOT GOING TO WORK. WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO CLEAN OLE DETOX.

    • Chantal
      March 13, 2014 - 11:38

      "Clean ole detox" rarely works.

    • @Mary
      March 13, 2014 - 14:08

      Clean ole detox has been proven to be the most reliable and long lasting method for quitting everything from cigarettes to heroin. It's a lot harder though.

    • @Chantal
      March 13, 2014 - 14:08

      Clean ole detox has been proven to be the most reliable and long lasting method for quitting everything from cigarettes to heroin. It's a lot harder though.

  • Glenn Stockley
    March 13, 2014 - 10:26

    and the r.n.c. swooped down in the nick of time before she could overpower those who apprehend her....if only they could mange to arrest the traffickers of hard drugs in st. john's...everyone knows who they are and where they live......and please make sure the safety is on before you carry your guns outside......

  • Margaret
    March 13, 2014 - 10:24

    This criminal cried when she mentioned her four year old son. How sad. What about the children of the pharmacists who could have been murdered? Did she even thinks of them? She felt. "I feel uncomfortable with my withdrawal symptoms," and taking away her symptoms was more important than another person's life and loosing her child.

  • Losing
    March 13, 2014 - 10:04

    I am starting to lose any sympathy for the druggies. She started at 11 so I would say that is a parenting problem. As she got older, say 16-18, she should have realized she had a problem. To get her drugs, she scared the living daylights out of people that are making an honest living. Did she ever think what happens when you do drugs? It's short term gain for long term pain. Maybe when she gets out, she can be an example for the rest of of her druggie friends. St. John's is going downhill ... fast.

  • Margaret
    March 13, 2014 - 10:00

    This criminal cried when she mentioned her four year old son. How sad. What about the children of the pharmacists who could have been murdered? Did she even thinks of them? She felt. "I feel uncomfortable with my withdrawal symptoms," and taking away her symptoms was more important than another person's life and loosing her child. I don't mean to blame the parents of the criminal, but, how does an 11 year old start to abuse drugs. Before your teens and in your early teens, where do you get money to buy drugs.