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School official accused of shoplifting

October 7, 2009 12:16:07 AM PDT
A Ventura County school superintendent has been accused of shoplifting at a local department store.Ventura County authorities say police were called to a T.J. Maxx store at the Esplanade Center in Oxnard about 9:30 p.m. on July 20 after a shoplifter had been detained.

Security at the store told police that they watched a woman on a security camera shoving a pair of high-heel shoes into her purse. They say the woman left but later returned and stole a pair of sandals.

The woman accused of shoplifting is 48-year-old Rio School District Superintendent Sherianne Cotterell.

"She was observed by loss-prevention officers taking property and they stopped her right outside the store," said Jim Ellison, Ventura County District Attorney's Office.

The Rio School District would not comment on the allegations.

The district serves some 4,300 students in the unincorporated community of El Rio, the River Parks Development and portions of the city of Oxnard.

Cotterell was hired as superintendent three years ago at a reported salary of $130,000 a year.

"I think superintendents make decent money. To have to stoop down so low to steal a pair of shoes, two pairs of shoes at T.J. Maxx, that's embarrassing," said Armando Ramirez, a Ventura County resident.

Authorities say the value of the items the superintendent is accused of stealing amounts to nearly $70. By law, any theft over $50 is considered no less than a misdemeanor.

"Theft is a crime, it doesn't make any difference what the amount is," said Ellison.

A misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to six months in jail.

"I don't agree with what she did. It is upsetting, but again you don't know what's behind it," said Nir Elidayan, a Ventura County resident.

In an interview with the Ventura County Star, Cotterell said she has been under a lot of stress but she would not talk specifics about what happened in the store.

Despite several court dates, Cotterell has not entered a plea. She is due back in court October 27.

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