2 Women Accused of Looting Dallas Home Destroyed by Tornado

The Dallas County District Attorney's Office will seek enhanced penalties for anyone caught looting in the areas hit hardest by the Oct. 20 tornadoes

Two women were indicted on Friday on charges relating to looting a North Dallas home destroyed by the Oct. 20 tornadoes.

Toni Renee Caldwell, 43, and Rhonda Cheryl Harper, 45, were arrested on Nov. 4 as they allegedly tried to steal from a home located in the 7700 block of Northaven Road.

According to the indictment, the two women are accused of "intentionally and knowingly" entering a building without the consent of the owner and attempting to commit theft.

The Dallas County Criminal District Attorney's Office said that it would seek enhanced penalties for anyone caught looting in tornado-ravaged areas of Dallas County.

The district attorney's office is using a new law that went into effect on Sept. 1 that seeks harsher punishment for crimes, like burglary, assaults and robberies, committed in disaster areas.

"Our legislators in Austin got it right," Assistant District Attorney Robert Withers said. "They gave us some powerful tools to protect victims of disasters that we intend on using when appropriate."

The enhancement goes into effect anytime the president, the governor, county judge or mayor declares a state of disaster.

A charge of burglary of a building normally carries a punishment range between 180 days and two years in prison. Under the new enhancement rule, however, a burglary of a building committed in a disaster zone can be punished between two and 10 years in prison. If the burglary occurs at a home located in a disaster area, an individual now faces anywhere between five years to life in prison.

The sentence for the same crime before Sept. 1 was two to 20 years.

"The District Attorney's Office is using this new enhancement law to help people who have already been victimized by a devastating tornado, or other disaster, from becoming victimized again by looters," Jason Hermus, Chief of Division C and the Community Response Team, said.

The outbreak of tornadoes on Oct. 20 caused $2 billion in losses and destroyed many North Texas homes and buildings. The district attorney's office said that it was doing all that it could to protect these families and business owners from further devastation.

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