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Woman 'ashamed' of drug habit that led to bank robbery

LAND O'LAKES — When a pawnshop refused to take the computer she'd stolen, Cherilyn Jannette Lopez panicked. She needed money. She needed a fix. Lopez, 24, was desperate for her next oxycodone pill.

So desperate, she told the Times, that she robbed a bank Monday afternoon with her 3-year-old son in tow.

Lopez saw a Regions Bank on State Road 52 in Hudson and pulled over. She left her son in the car. She stepped inside the bank and wrote her message at the withdrawal slips counter.

"I don't even remember what it said. It's not a blur, it's a blank," Lopez said Tuesday behind a glass window in Land O'Lakes jail. "This is the biggest mistake I've ever made in my entire life. When I walked in, I didn't think I was going to do it, but then something, I don't know — it's not like I planned it or anything."

Lopez gave the note to the teller. That's when the manager told Lopez her son was standing at the bank's window. Lopez went outside, scooped him up, grabbed the money and left.

Scared and crying, Lopez called her sister from the road.

"I just robbed a bank. I don't know why," Lopez recalled sobbing to her sister. Fresh tears welled as she remembered the call.

Her sister begged Lopez to bring the boy to her house. Lopez took him there, gave him a kiss and said "I'll see you later."

A few minutes later, a Pasco deputy pulled Lopez over in the silver Chrysler minivan matching the description of the bank robber's vehicle. She called her husband, Esteban, a truck driver who is on the road for weeks at a time.

"Baby, I just robbed a bank," she told him. "I'm about to be pulled over."

At first, he thought it was a joke. Then he realized the seriousness of the situation: "They're going to take the kids," he told her.

Now her son and two other children — a 17-month-old son and a newborn daughter — are staying with Lopez's mother, who is shocked by what happened.

"She's beautiful," Sylvia Potts told Bay News 9. "She loves her kids, she's outgoing, she's got a heart of gold."

Lopez said her family was in the dark as she battled addiction for the past few years. She had been prescribed pills for severe back pain, but when the medication ran out, she bought more pills anywhere she could.

With her husband on the road so often, she was raising their young children largely on her own in Tampa. She struggled. Lopez said the oxycodone helped her cope. She would wait until the children were asleep to take a pill. She said it was the only way to keep from feeling sick.

"I'm ashamed of it. I knew what it could do to my life. I didn't want anyone to see — especially my children," she said.

But Lopez said she wanted to get clean. She drove to her mother's west Pasco home Sunday night intending to start that process. But come Monday morning, Lopez said she needed more pills.

Now Lopez is sorry for jeopardizing her family.

"If you have a problem with oxy, get off of them before it's too late," she said Tuesday. "If you come across them and don't know what they are, don't experiment with them because it's not worth it."

Lopez was charged with robbery, child neglect and burglary of a residence for the stolen laptop computer. She remained Tuesday in the Land O'Lakes jail in lieu of a $22,000 bail.

"To be honest, I don't want them to put (the bail money) up," said a teary Lopez, who is going through withdrawal at the jail. "I want to be sober with my kids. I want to remember and enjoy life with them. I love my babies."

Woman 'ashamed' of drug habit that led to bank robbery 07/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 9:08pm]
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