They had her. They let her go. Now they have her again – but not before she fled on a Greyhound bus from Minneapolis to the West Coast and then entered Mexico, only to be lured back to the United States by a guilty conscience.

Authorities have in a locked cell the St. Paul woman suspected of robbing a TCF Bank branch inside a Blaine grocery store. That evening late last month, she was placed in detox south of the metro area, only to unwittingly be let go.

Shawna M. Pearson, 35, was charged by warrant on Oct. 28 in Anoka County District Court with holding up the bank late on the afternoon of Oct. 23, then fleeing with a getaway driver in her van.

She was apprehended after turning herself in to police on Nov. 2 in San Diego, her attorney said Tuesday, and booked into the Anoka County jail Saturday in lieu of $30,000 bail.

Police have yet to reveal the circumstances leading to her arrest or address the whereabouts of her cohort, but defense attorney Bryan Leary said his client’s time on the run included a bus ride to southern California and a side trip to Tijuana in search of cheap liquor.

Pearson’s loosely concocted time as a fugitive ended when, “racked by guilt for what she’d done, she recrossed the border … and went to a police station in San Diego,” Leary said. “At first, the police did not believe that she was a wanted bank robber, but after they checked the Internet and found her picture and name and then the warrant, she was arrested.”

Leary said Pearson robbed the bank at the Cub Foods at 12595 Central Av. because “her judgment was clouded from drinking mouthwash for the days before the robbery.”

Her initial plan, the attorney added, was to merely steal mouthwash from the store, “but that’s not what took place.”

The teller who was robbed said that Pearson never said a word, opened her eyes wide and gave him a note demanding money, according to the criminal complaint.

Her eyes widened even more as the teller gave her more than $2,700 and an anti-theft dye pack, the charges added.

Leary said the dye pack exploded in the getaway vehicle, so “she threw the stained money out the window.”

According to the complaint and police in Blaine and Cannon Falls:

Blaine police, having released to the public a clear surveillance image of Pearson at the bank counter, acted on tips the day after the robbery and went to Pearson’s home on St. Paul’s East Side. Neighbors said Pearson mentioned she needed to get out of town and left.

About five hours after the holdup and 56 miles south of the bank, in Cannon Falls, the van traveled along a path in the Riverside Terrace mobile home park, went out the back of the property and got stuck in a ravine. The tow truck operator suspected the van’s driver had been drinking and notified police.

Pearson and the driver, a 49-year-old St. Paul man, were both intoxicated, and the van was impounded, authorities said. The two were taken to a detox facility in Hastings, then released before authorities in Cannon Falls knew they were wanted in Blaine.

A citizen in the Cannon Falls area, having heard about the robbery, called police and said the woman who was in the van crash could be responsible for the heist in Blaine. On Oct. 27, Cannon Falls police revealed to Blaine investigators their encounter with Pearson.

Leary said Tuesday that Pearson took a cab from Hastings to the Minneapolis bus station, where she tried to buy a ticket, “but [she] was too drunk and was refused a ticket.”

Leary continued:

She gave a stranger $500 from the robbery to buy her a ticket, but the man took off with the cash.
Pearson slept outside overnight and bought a ticket, “arriving with less than $1 in her pocket.”

She panhandled for cash before she “crossed the border unimpeded … into Tijuana, “where booze is cheap, and she remained there for a few days.”

 It was there that Pearson’s conscience prompted her to give up her flight.

Pearson has a criminal history in Minnesota that includes convictions for theft, fifth-degree assault, domestic assault, trespassing, disorderly conduct and property damage.

 Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482