Nearly a decade ago, Tara L. Mull walked out of the Ace Hardware in Sierra Vista with about $700 in power tools hidden in a baby stroller. On Monday, she pleaded guilty as part of a negotiated agreement which allows the business to be repaid for that loss from July 2012.
Court records show Mull had a lengthy criminal record of low-level felonies and misdemeanors at the time she committed the aggravated shoplifting incident. But although she was indicted by a Cochise County grand jury on various drug charges in 2013, Mull was not charged in connection with the Ace Hardware theft until 2015.
By then, it appears Mull had left Cochise County and addressed her drug addiction. Arrest warrants were eventually issued in both cases but nothing happened until December 2020 when Mull came into contact with law enforcement in either Arizona or in Texas here she has resided for several years.
Mull, 49, was booked into the Cochise County jail at the time, then released pending assignment of a court-appointed attorney. Nothing further happened in the cases until March of this year when the 2015 shoplifting complaint was taken to a county grand jury.
A new arrest warrant was issued, and last month Mull appeared before an Arizona judge for arraignment in both cases. She was allowed to return to Texas pending trial.
Mull traveled back to Cochise County for what was scheduled as a pretrial conference on May 16. However, defense attorney Perry Hicks advised Judge Laura Cardinal that a non-prison plea deal had been worked out with the Cochise County Attorney’s Office. The pretrial conference then became a change of plea hearing.
Under terms of the agreement, Mull pleaded guilty to two felonies – one for the 2012 shoplifting incident and one for 2012 possession of drug paraphernalia charge. All other charges against Mull were dismissed.
The plea deal calls for Mull to be placed on probation for several years with supervision by Texas court officials. Formal sentencing will occur June 27 at which time Cardinal will issue an order of restitution on behalf of Ace Hardware.
If Mull violates any conditions of probation she could end up in prison for 2.5 years on the shoplifting charge and 1 year for the drug charge. And if she fails to appear for sentencing next month the probation option will also be off the table, the judge warned her.