Purse-Snatcher Gets 30 Years in "Mad Grandma" Case

In court, victim tells robber his life of crime is over

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCDFW.com
    Val Renfro, 65, gave chase after a thief grabbed her purse.

    A Fort Worth purse-snatcher whose crime made national headlines after his victim chased him down and hit him with her car was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison.

    His punishment handed down only after he received a 20-minutes lecture from the grandmother he tried to rob.

    “You’ve been given far more second-chances than you deserve,” Val Renfro told Ricky Lee Sample in Tarrant County District Court. “It’s over.”

    "Angry Grandma" Lectures Purse Thief in Court

    [DFW] "Angry Grandma" Lectures Purse Thief in Court
    A 65-year-old woman who chased a purse-snatcher down and hit him with her car lectured him for 20 minutes at his sentencing.

    Renfro stared straight at him and spoke about his life of crime.

    “You saw a woman in a parking lot. You thought I was an easy target,” she said. “Now you know I wasn’t.”

    "Madder Than Hell" Grandma Gets Free Salsa

    [DFW] "Madder Than Hell" Grandma Gets Free Salsa
    The woman who fought off a robber got free salsa for a year.

    Sample looked at Renfro, but showed little emotion and was not allowed to speak back.

    “I don’t know if you’ll ever get out (of prison),” she said. “I wish for you nothing but the best. I hope you turn your life around.”

    Sample, 47, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in a plea bargain with prosecutors. He could have received life in prison.

    On March 1, Sample grabbed Renfro’s purse on the parking lot of an office supply store in East Fort Worth. She jumped in her car, gave chase, grabbed a cell phone she carried in her bra and called 911.

    “Someone just grabbed my purse,” an angry Renfro told the police operator. “I’m going to chase him down.”

    Her confrontation with the man was recorded in the 911 call

    "Where’s my purse?" she yelled. "You give it to me now. I got the police on the phone right now. You give me my purse."

    Sample tried to get away, she said, so she struck him with her car, knocking him into the air. He was not seriously injured.

    Two passersby helped detain him until police arrived.

    “Yes, I hit you,” she said at his sentencing. “But I never meant to hurt you.”

    The robbery charge against Sample was enhanced because Renfro, 65, was considered “elderly” and also because of his long criminal record, including convictions for burglary, theft and drug possession.

    In the weeks after her purse was snatched, Renfro became something of a national celebrity. The story of a grandmother who said she was “mad as hell" and fought back against crime was irresistible.

    The story appeared on NBC’s Today show, Inside Edition, and CNN. She also was a guest on The Bonnie Hunt Show.

    After the sentencing, Renfro said the crime has changed her life.

    She said she angers easier and is not as comfortable around strangers.

    "I'm cynical now," she said. "I'm distrustful of people who look at me."

    Renfro said the opportunity to speak to Sample was therapeutic for her.

    "I feel like he was listening," she said. "I just needed to talk to him to tell him how I felt."

    In public appearances, Renfro has encouraged women to carry cell phones in their bras so they can call for help if someone grabs their purse.

    “I’m so tired of women being victimized,” she told Sample in court. “You chose to take my purse, and I chose to take action.”