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Woman faces 34 charges

When Debbie Vanos appears for a pre-trial hearing Feb. 7 in Clay County District Court, cases bearing her name will fill roughly four pages of the court calendar.

When Debbie Vanos appears for a pre-trial hearing Feb. 7 in Clay County District Court, cases bearing her name will fill roughly four pages of the court calendar.

The 34 charges she is set to appear on were filed in 2001 and 2002. Twelve of the counts involve either driving without a valid license or driving without insurance.

The most serious charges stem from the theft of a safe -- and the $4,200 in it -- from a Glyndon home in August 2001.

In that case, Vanos, 23, is charged with second-degree burglary, theft exceeding $2,500, aiding in the commission of second-degree burglary and receiving stolen property.

According to a court complaint, a man identified as Vanos' boyfriend told authorities the burglary was her idea. He said Vanos broke into the home by smashing a window with a rock, and he said the two of them carried the safe to her car and drove away with it.


Vanos told authorities her boyfriend acted alone in the burglary, though she said money taken in the burglary was used to pay off her car loan.

In an interview at the Clay County Jail, Vanos said she was in and out of jail many times last year, mostly for driving-related offenses.

She said she spent hundreds of dollars to bail herself out of jail and to get her car out of impound.

In October, Vanos posted a $5,000 bond on the promise she would make a November court appearance.

She didn't show up for the hearing and the court ordered her bond forfeited.

In December, the bonding company tracked Vanos to the Twin Cities, apprehended her, and returned her to Clay County.

The court gave the $5,000 back to the bonding company and then set conditions for release at $20,000 bond or cash bail.

Vanos remains in jail awaiting the Feb. 7 hearing, which will serve as a pre-trial hearing for the majority of the charges pending against her.


The appearance also will serve as an unpaid fine hearing for three files involving convictions for fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, driving without a license, driving with no insurance and passing a nonsufficient fund check.

Chief Assistant Clay County Attorney Ken Kohler said the number of charges Vanos faces is unusual but not unheard of.

He said Vanos rejected one plea bargain and when another was offered "she ran off on us."

He said if Vanos wants to settle the cases, he's still open to the idea. Otherwise, he added, "We're geared toward trial."

Vanos said she wanted to "take responsibility" for her actions. She said she hoped a plea agreement could be worked out that would give her three to four months in jail, with credit for time spent.

Vanos said her 3-year-old son is in foster care and she wants to resolve all of her cases so that she can work on having him returned to her.

Vanos said she drove when she wasn't supposed to but added it was often necessary.

"I'm a single mother of a young child and I was going to work some of the times, or visiting friends or family, or grocery shopping."


She said her car is now for sale.

Among the unresolved cases pending against Vanos are 15 charges arising from seven different incidents in March.

In one case, according to court records, police were called to the Dilworth Wal-Mart store March 15 on a report of a hit-and-run.

The store manager told police he followed a young woman he suspected of shoplifting out to the parking lot.

The manager said the woman got into a car and backed into a parked vehicle before driving off. The incident was captured on a store video camera.

The manager called police the next day to say the woman was back at the store. Police arrived and identified the woman as Vanos.

In the March 15 incident, Vanos was charged with one count of driving without a license; one count of failure to provide proof of insurance; and one count of colliding with an unattended vehicle.

She was charged with one count of driving without a license for the March 16 incident at the store.


Other charges pending against Vanos include: use of an unregistered motor vehicle; fleeing a police officer; shoplifting; disorderly conduct; trespassing; stop sign violation; improper right turn; and a loud party violation.

Readers can reach Moorhead Bureau Chief Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com.
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