WATERLOO — In a last-minute strategy shift, the attorney for a Waterloo woman accused of holding up a cellphone store withdrew his client’s insanity defense Thursday.
Instead, Public Defender Ted Fisher argued prosecutors didn’t prove the robber was armed during the heist at the San Marnan Drive iWireless store on Nov. 25, 2015.
Cheryl “C.J.” Wanchanic, 43, is charged with first-degree robbery, which denotes the use of a weapon.
Fisher said, at most, his client is guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree robbery, which involves taking property by threats or force while unarmed.
The store’s lone employee on duty that night testified earlier in the trial a person dressed head to toe in all black had briefly opened a coat to flash a large knife and then told her an accomplice outside had a gun before looting the register and a safe.
Fisher said none of the store’s four security cameras showed a knife.
“Where on the video do we see that?” Fisher asked during closing arguments on Thursday.
“Nobody saw a weapon on the cameras,” he said.
He also pointed to statements the worker made to police that the assailant was a man who had a gun or a knife and at one point said it was a machete.
Fisher said the employee was scared and thought the robber had a weapon.
Assistant County Attorney James Katcher said the quality of the video didn’t pick up the knife, but he said the footage showed the robber hold her hands to her chest as if opening the coat.
He also noted text messages sent by Wanchanic the following day, after police began talking with the person who had dropped her off at the store before the robbery, show she had asked a neighbor to look after her collection of kitchen knives. Police found the knives in the neighbor’s apartment, and the store employee identified one of them as the weapon she saw during the robbery.
Katcher said the worker had misspoken when she said the robber had a gun and had corrected herself.
Arguments concluded late Thursday afternoon, and the case was submitted to the jury.
During opening statements Wednesday, the defense said it had planned to argue that Wanchanic suffered from mental illness and had suffered a psychotic break that prevented her from appreciating the nature of her actions.