TA arrested on suspicion of theft and outstanding warrant

Saturday, October 13, 2007 | 6:07 p.m. CDT; updated 1:22 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — With the help of a pawn shop, MU police arrested a teaching assistant Wednesday in connection with the theft of 14 laptop computers from the German and Russian studies department.

Marina D. Somers, 27, of Columbia, was arrested on suspicion of stealing in connection with the theft. The laptops were discovered missing Wednesday morning from a computer lab in MU’s General Classroom Building, where the department is located.

Somers, who was enrolled as a master’s student in German studies, was also arrested on an outstanding warrant for failure to follow a judge’s order. MU police said they will not share any additional information until Monday.

According to a probable cause statement filed in the 13th Circuit Court, MU police arrested Somers just before the class she was teaching, elementary German, ended. After further questioning, police said Somers admitted to stealing 10 of the 14 computers.

Somers’ Facebook page indicates she attended Rock Bridge High School and completed a degree in international studies from Stephens College.

Court documents also state that three of the computers had been pawned at Family Pawn on Paris Road.

Brian Mayse, manager of the pawn shop, said Somers pawned the three computers over the course of three days. The computers, he said, were the same models with MU insignia and identical logon information.

“I was a little bit suspicious about these computers in the first place,” Mayse said.

Mayse said the make, model and serial number from every item pawned at his store is entered into a database. The pawn shop also records the customer’s driver’s license information.

Mayse contacted the police, and they verified that the computers were stolen and identified Somers as a suspect.

Mayse said his store is out $525 and he has given the computers to MU police.

Mayse said even though he didn’t receive compensation for his help in the investigation, if he had to, he would do it again.

Carsten Strathausen, chairman of the German department, said Somers is no longer employed as a TA.

“The department, in agreement with the college, has already terminated her,” Strathausen said.

Somers made an initial court appearance Friday via teleconference from the Boone County Jail, where she is being held on a $4,500 bond.

Because of the theft, Strathausen said the department has changed its policy about who has access to the department’s laptops. Now they are kept in a locked office, and they must be signed out and only a faculty member or a secretary can release them.

Somers’ next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 19.

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