LISBON - At last week's Village Council meeting, Maple Street residents were assured they had little to worry about from those staying in the new homeless shelter that opened in their neighborhood.
It turns out one of the first shelter residents was arrested for shoplifting at a village convenience store two days after she moved in, and she was also the traveling companion of an Akron man who fled from Leetonia police after the couple was found sleeping in a stolen car.
Valerie C. Pedreschi, 18, who listed the homeless shelter as her address, pleaded innocent in Columbiana County Municipal Court to misdemeanor theft, and a pretrial hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27. She is accused of shoplifting peanuts, bubble gum and candy from the Smith Oil convenience store at 10 a.m. Thursday.
This was two days after Pedreschi and her companion, 19-year-old Albert Bell of Akron, were found by Leetonia police sleeping in a vehicle in the Cherry Valley Coke Ovens parking lot. Bell claimed he and Pedreschi, who is also from Akron, found the 1991 Chrysler LeBaron parked there and climbed inside to get warm, but authorities determined the car was stolen from Ashley Watts of Akron.
While they were being processed at the Leetonia Police Department, Bell reportedly slipped out of his handcuffs and ran out of the building. Bell, who was captured yesterday near Damascus, was charged with receiving stolen property and fleeing from police, both felonies. Pedreschi was not charged in connection with either crime.
The 13-bed shelter run by the Community Action Agency with federal funding recently opened after being relocated from East Liverpool, and Pedreschi is believed to be one of the first occupants. The CAA's Marti Grimm told concerned residents at last week's council meeting the first occupant was a parentless and pregnant 18-year-old girl.
While privacy restrictions prevent Grimm from commenting on whether Pedreschi is a shelter tenant, Village Police Chief John Higgins said Pedreschi told him she lived there and hoped she could stay.
Grimm did say one of the rules is that anyone arrested while staying at the shelter is required to leave, regardless of the offense.
Shelter applicants are screened, but the only background check they must pass is whether they are either a registered sex offender or convicted of a violent crime, which is an automatic disqualification. Grimm said people convicted of other crimes are eligible to stay there if they meet the criteria.