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Police find 1,413 pills in car of alleged armed robber

Melanie Parkin

A hood-covered, sunglasses-clad, airsoft gun-wielding woman made off with more than 1,400 pills of oxycodone from a Woodbury pharmacy Feb. 13.

Melanie Sue Parkin, 36, of South St. Paul allegedly robbed Walgreens, only to be immediately arrested and face charges on Valentine's Day.

Charged with first-degree robbery and third-degree possession of narcotics, Parkin has appeared before a Washington County District Court judge, is being held in lieu of $5,000 bail with conditions or $25,000 without conditions, and is due back in court in mid-April.

"The crime was called in immediately, and good information was provided to dispatch, which assisted the patrol officers in locating the suspect," public information officer Michelle Okada wrote in an email.

Parkin has been a special education teacher at South St. Paul Secondary School since Aug. 22, the district said Thursday. She was put on paid administrative leave Wednesday.

According to the criminal complaint:

At 2:49 a.m. Feb. 13, at the Walgreens along Donegal Drive, Parkin — in a baseball hat and puffy jacket — displayed the gun to a pharmacist and put three bottles of Percocet in a Walgreens bag.

In police custody, Parkin told officers at the Woodbury Public Safety Building that she had been on pain medication for four years, ever since breaking her spine in an accident. She'd been prescribed either Percocet or OxyContin, become addicted, and had only four pills left.

If she stops her medication, she suffers from withdrawals, Parkin said. She ran out of refills and doesn't have a current, valid prescription.

At Walgreens, she used the main entrance and went straight to the pharmacy, with the gun in her right front jacket pocket, Parkin told police.

She stood 3 or 4 feet away from the only pharmacist working the overnight shift, showed the gun, and said: "Can I have Percocet, please?"

"Percocet?" the pharmacist repeated, remaining calm.

"Yes, please. Don't give me the tracker, please." (She had seen on TV that some pharmacists give a tracker to thieves to aid in their apprehension.)

The pharmacist handed her one large bottle of Percocet and turned around to get five or six more bottles.

"That's too much," Parkin said, taking two more bottles and running out of the store. Parkin was scared, she said.

Police were called at 2:52 a.m.

An officer responded in time to see a black sports-utility vehicle waiting to make a left turn onto Radio Drive. The tabs were expired on the SUV, and the officer executed a traffic stop.

Parkin put the vehicle into park when instructed by police.

She admitted she "took the pills from Walgreens."

Police asked where was the weapon, and Parkin replied it was "only an airsoft gun."

A search of the vehicle turned up the jacket, a pair of gloves, a mask, Parkin's cellphone, and two pairs of sunglasses.

Officers counted 1,413 pills of Percocet in several pill bottles and scattered loose inside the Walgreens bag.

Percocet is composed of 325 mg of acetaminophen and 5 mg of oxycodone hydrochloride. Oxycodone is a schedule II controlled substance.

A search of Parkin's person uncovered a screw-top vial in her jean pocket. It contained four 30-mg pills of OxyContin, a schedule II controlled substance.

Police interviewed the victim, who was visibly shaken by the incident but also was able to describe the defendant and the interaction.

At the police station, officers — aware of an alert from other jurisdictions — questioned Parkin about other similar incidents that occurred at area pharmacies. Then, Parkin said she wanted a lawyer.

Nick Ferraro contributed to this report. The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.