A Lansdowne woman was ordered to stay out of Walmart for five years after pleading guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor assault in a bleach and Pine-Sol fight that briefly shut down a Baltimore County store last fall.
Theresa M. Jefferson, 33, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in the altercation with Ebony Odoms, 38, which broke out Oct. 8 inside a Walmart at the Lansdowne Station shopping center. She was given a suspended five-year sentence, probation and community service, and ordered by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. to stay away from Odoms and "stay out of Walmart."
Her lawyer, John G. Turnbull III, said after the 15-minute hearing that he understood that to mean all Walmart stores, not just the one on Washington Boulevard where the incident took place. The store was shut down for a few hours after the mix of chemicals unleashed noxious fumes. Nineteen people were taken to hospitals for treatment.
In brief remarks to the court, Jefferson said, "I definitely would apologize that the incident escalated to the level it did." A tall woman with long black hair, dressed in slacks and a short-sleeve shirt, Jefferson said the episode was "a humiliating and embarrassing experience, one that won't happen again."
Described by her lawyer as a student in the radiology program at the Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville, Jefferson said her life was "falling apart" when the fight broke out.
Jefferson was originally charged with first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and malicious destruction of property. All but second-degree assault were dropped.
Odoms, who faces the same four charges, was also scheduled to stand trial Wednesday. Her case was postponed until June.
Turnbull told Cahill that responsibility for the fight was not Jefferson's alone.
"The blame pie can be divided into three equal portions," Turnbull said. "There's a lot of problems between the families."
According to a police account of the fight, Jefferson and Odoms had been feuding for some time because Odoms was engaged to Calvin Pannell, Jefferson's former boyfriend and the father of her 7-year-old son. Police said Pannell and Odoms claimed Jefferson had threatened Odoms in the past, and at the time of the fight they had been granted a restraining order against Jefferson.
Turnbull told the court that Jefferson had been acquitted on a charge of violating the order. He said she "has vowed to stay away from the drama."
He recommended a suspended sentence, and Deputy State's Attorney John Cox agreed.
Cox told the court that the fight broke out about 11 a.m. at the store. He said witnesses reported first seeing the two women pulling each other's hair, then seeing Odoms spraying something at Jefferson.
Jefferson then reached for a bottle of bleach from a shelf, opened the bottle and poured the bleach on Odoms, Cox said. Odoms then grabbed a bottle of Pine-Sol and spilled it on Jefferson, he said.
The two chemicals combined to create fumes that sickened some customers. The store was closed for cleaning and ventilation, and reopened at 2 p.m.
Jefferson was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service, and given two years of supervised and three years of unsupervised probation.
"It's a fair resolution to a difficult case," Turnbull said after the hearing. "She had a lot to lose. She has a future in front of her she's got to think about."