‘Incense Bandit’ gets 144 yearsAround the City Thursday, January 31st, 2013
A judge Jan. 25 handed down a staggering prison sentence of 144 years to life for the “Incense Bandit” who was convicted of robbing businesses in Hillcrest, with the judge noting his “extensive criminal history” as the reason for the long term.
Because Charles Edward Shipman, 49, had previously been convicted of six felonies, he qualified for the “third strike” sentence handed down by San Diego Superior Court Judge Amalia Meza that was recommended by Deputy District Attorney Dennis Panish.
She imposed 25 years consecutively for three robberies and one attempted robbery in the “Incense Bandit” series that equaled 100 years. She then imposed another 44 years consecutively for his prior convictions.
Shipman, wearing jail clothing, said nothing in court. The sentence will prevent him from being paroled. Meza fined him $10,262 and gave him credit for already serving 387 days in jail.
San Diego Police dubbed the robbery series the “Incense Bandit” because the robber complained about the price of incense to a candle store clerk before he robbed her. The clerk testified Shipman said “you guys are too expensive for me” when holding an $8.95 box of incense and then simulated having a gun and robbed her of $101.
Ironically, the jury that convicted Shipman Nov. 9, 2012 deadlocked 7-5 for acquittal for the holdup at the Cathedral, a store at 435 University Ave. Jan. 7, 2012. The jury also deadlocked 11-2 for conviction for two robberies of the same employee at Fifth Avenue Books.
Meza declared a mistrial on those unresolved counts and the prosecutor asked they be dismissed. Shipman was convicted of robbing the same parking valet twice at Arrivederci Restaurant, holding up the Lady of the Lake bookstore, and attempted robbery of a general store in 2011.
The Hillcrest Business Association distributed sketches of the robber which some stores displayed in their windows. The total loss from all the stores hit was approximately $2,500. Shipman was arrested Feb. 24, 2012 after two parole officers recognized him in a surveillance photo taken at the last hold-up.
Panish asked for the long term, saying Shipman was a danger to the public and had no remorse. Shipman’s attorney, Vickie Fernandes, said he wasn’t actually armed in any of the hold-ups, but Panish responded by saying the victims all thought he had a gun.
Fernandes unsuccessfully asked Meza not to consider some of Shipman’s prior convictions, and said no one was hurt in any of the robberies. Shipman was previously convicted of three attempted robberies, burglary and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He has served time in prison before.
There was no DNA evidence, fingerprints, fibers or security camera footage except for the last one Feb. 13. Fernandes argued at trial that the witnesses misidentified Shipman as the robber and police made mistakes.
Several victims testified the robberies caused them to change their procedures including how much money is available to a cashier.
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