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Woman charged in nine criminal cases this year in jail again

Guerin faces drug, theft charges

Guerin

A woman charged in nine separate criminal cases this year is back behind bars less than two weeks after her bail was lowered by a Blair County judge.

Heather Lee Guer­in, 42, was arrested Sunday by Tyrone police after she allegedly tried ditching a backpack full of drugs and drug paraphernalia as well as two checkbooks that police said were taken in a burglary.

Guerin had been in Blair County Prison since the night of March 30 after she allegedly stabbed a man in the leg in Tyrone.

Bail in that case was set at $30,000 cash, and by April 3, Tyrone police had filed additional cases against Guerin for two felony retail thefts in March 2018 and a Nov. 21 traffic stop that included a felony drug charge. Guerin’s bail in each of those cases was set at $30,000 cash.

At the time of Guerin’s arrest in late March, she was already out on bail on several other cases, including an Altoona theft case from January, and was wanted on a bench warrant for failing to show up for her preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Steven Jackson on March 21 for a Logan Township misdemeanor drug case. Guerin’s charges were held for court in her absence, and her bail was set at $25,000 cash on April 10 by Judge Timothy Sullivan.

Less than a week later, on April 16, Judge Jackie Bernard signed a consent order, “based on the consent of the Blair County District Attorney’s Office,” to reduce Guerin’s bail in the five cases where cash bail had been set to unsecured $3,000 bonds.

Guerin, who appeared before Magisterial District Judge Paula Aigner on April 16 for a preliminary hearing and arraignment on a misdemeanor drug possession case filed by Hollidaysburg Borough police, was released from jail on April 17. She is due to appear on May 9 for a misdemeanor drug case filed April 2 via a summons.

First Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks, who signed the consent order to lower Guerin’s bail, said Monday that motions will be filed to revoke Guerin’s bail and he admitted it is sometimes risky to agree to allow defendants to remain free on bail.

“It’s definitely a problem,” Weeks said, noting that bail is reduced for defendants from cash bail to unsecured bonds for a variety of reasons, whether it is because they are cooperating with police and working as confidential informants or due to medical issues, family situations and the reality of a jail with a finite number of beds.

“We definitely are having problems with it (prison space), and I’d say the problems are getting worse with the drug of choice moving from heroin to methamphetamine,” Weeks said. “It’s something we’re concerned about, and we’re trying to strike a balance between who to take chances on and who should we lock up.”

Weeks noted the office has one assistant district attorney dedicated to handling bail revocations. When the number of revocation requests can reach up to 20 a week, as it did recently, it presents challenges due to jail capacity, he said.

It is not the first time Guerin was jailed on cash bail in multiple cases and then released. After failing to show for a preliminary hearing in August, Magisterial District Judge Fred Miller revoked her bail after she was arrested in late November and also set cash bail at $15,000 in a Logan Township case filed Nov. 21.

Guerin was released from jail in late December after having her bail modified to unsecured bonds. Since then, she’s been charged in nine cases, including the one from Sunday in Tyrone.

Guerin was charged Sunday by Tyrone police with felony counts of conspiracy, burglary, criminal trespass and possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine, along with a list of related misdemeanors, after she was spotted by a Tyrone officer about 2:30 p.m. on Columbia Avenue and taken into custody when she tried to abandon a purple backpack.

Guerin caught the attention of the officer because when she saw him, she pulled up the hood on her sweatshirt and tried to hide her face with her left hand, according to the charges.

The officer recognized Guerin and noticed she was carrying a purple backpack. Later, the officer saw her walking along another street without the backpack as he patrolled and then when he passed the 2200 block of Columbia Avenue again, he saw the backpack sitting unattended in front of a home.

When officers tracked Guerin down on the 400 block of 21st Street, they asked her if the backpack was hers and she said it was not.

When the backpack was searched, officers allegedly found hypodermic needles, four plastic bags of suspected methamphetamine, a small amount of marijuana and a pipe, 30 small, unused plastic bags and other drug paraphernalia along with checkbooks belonging to an elderly Tyrone woman who is in a nursing home but whose house is on Blair Avenue.

Police said Guerin confessed the backpack belonged to her and that she and another person had burglarized the Blair Avenue home, police noted in the charges.

Magisterial District Judge Daniel DeAntonio set bail for Guerin at $15,000 cash and she was lodged in Blair County Prison with a preliminary hearing in Tyrone District Court slated for May 7.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.

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