A brother and sister convicted of robbing an elderly woman while hugging her are being investigated for preying on at least one other elderly woman with hugger-mugger tactics.
Sandra Keel and Johnny Watkins were arrested on April 22 and convicted May 6 of robbing 80-year-old Mary Cochnauer of Oklahoma City.
According to court documents, Watkins and Keel entered guilty pleas for exploitation of an elderly person and concealing stolen property. Watkins has been sentenced to five years while his sister was sentenced to 20.
Cochnauer was approached on April 5 at a PetSmart in Oklahoma City where she was trying to find a new collar for a dog she had just rescued the week before.
Keel walked up to Cochnauer and said, “Oh woman, I know you,” Cochnauer told ABC News today. After a few exchanges left Cochnauer confused, Keel asked Cochnauer what church she attended.
“I said, ‘Village Baptist,’ and she said, ‘That’s it lady, that’s it,’ and she just hugged me,” Cochnauer said.
At that moment, Cochnauer felt that something was not right. “She just hugged me and she didn’t let go, even when I tried to get away, she just tightened her grip,” Cochnauer said.
“I reached behind me and put my hand on top of my purse,” Cochnauer said. “I think she was trying to hold me so her brother wouldn’t get caught.”
Cochnauer was suspicious. “Sometimes you know, you give them a little hug, but you don’t keep it up, especially when I try and pull back,… it was like a bad bear hug,” Cochnauer said.
When Cochnauer was finally released, she turned around and checked for her purse, which to her surprise was still there on her cart, seemingly untouched. “I had my glasses laid on top of my purse,” and it appeared to be in the same place.
It wasn’t until she got to the register to pay for the new dog collar that she realized, “No billfold.”
Cochnauer immediately went home to cancel her credit cards. Upon calling her credit card companies, one customer assistant said, “Wow, they’re busy.”
In that time, the pair had already filled up two tanks of gas for $56 and $40. Keel and Watkins had also charged $1,100 at Target. It all happened in 30 minutes.
Cochnauer said she was advised by the police to call Target to retrieve a time of transaction with her credit card information so authorities could match it to surveillance video.
“I didn’t know whether to be mad, or what,” but the fact that the two used the church to rob her, “that’s what made me mad,” Cochnauer said.
“It’s because somebody said they met me in church, that’s why you wouldn’t be so reluctant, but Christians don’t treat people mean,” she said.
Cochnauer has adopted a new policy: “No hug. Hands off,” she said.
The Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office filed new charges Tuesday for other possible victims who have since come forward to make similar claims.
According to court documents, Doris Boyd, 84, was approached on April 7 by a woman, later identified as Keel, at Crest Foods. Keel and her brother allegedly executed the same routine, and then went to a 7-Eleven after and made purchases of $107.91 and $109.52 with Boyd’s stolen credit card, the allegations charge.
The two could possibly face more prison time.