State Finally Retreats from Sending Disabled Teenage Girl to Prison for Years for a $7.15 Theft

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Teera Baumbach-Majeski. Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle / special to news-press.com

An intellectually disabled teenage girl in Florida faced up to 15 years in prison after Lee County prosecutors refused to charge her with a misdemeanor for allegedly serving as a lookout while another teen took $7.15 from a campsite trailer.

Nineteen-year-old Teera Baumbach-Majeski has an IQ of 71, which puts her in the range of borderline intellectual disability. Her mother died from diabetes complications, her father left, her grandmother died of cancer, and Teera spent her childhood in California being abused and neglected until she and her sister were adopted by Angela Baumbach and her husband, Matthew Majeski.

When funding cuts shut down group homes for people with intellectual disabilities and the Baumbach-Majeski family lost their home, they left California and began travelling to KOA parks and working at various churches.

In July 2012, while living at a KOA park on Pine Island in Lee County, Florida, Terra met Crystal, who was about Terra's age. Terra stood by a tree while Crystal took coins and one dollar bill from an unlocked trailer because she was trying to make friends with Crystal: "I don’t have very many friends my age. They’re all little kids. I thought maybe impressing her would make her want to be my friend more.”

Police never looked for Crystal, but deputies arrested Terra and charged her with felony burglary, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Because her family couldn't afford to pay bail, Terra spent 16 days in jail, where other inmates threatened to hurt her and watch her in the shower.

On the eve of trial six months later, the state attorney's office finally offered to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor. Terra will have to be on probation for a year, pay $15 to the owner of the trailer and more than $2000 in court costs, and complete 50 hours of service. She cried when she learned her criminal record might harm her chances of finding a job.