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SA woman gets max for injuring trooper with car

Kenny Kemp
Jennifer Garretson turns and apologizes to State Police Sgt. Aaron Nichols before she is sentenced Monday. Garretson pleaded guilty to running over Nichols with her car last year.
Kenny Kemp State Police Sgt. Aaron Nichols speaks in court Monday about some of the injuries he suffered that he'll never recover from.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A woman was given the maximum sentence Monday for running over an off-duty State Police trooper after allegedly stealing from a St. Albans store.

Jennifer Elaine Garretson, 36, pleaded guilty to malicious wounding in October. Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky sentenced her to two to 10 years.

Stucky also said that sentence wouldn't begin until Garretson finishes a jail sentence of one to 10 years she received in Putnam County for forgery. She was on parole from that sentence when she ran over Sgt. Aaron Nichols, and has been returned to jail to complete the sentence.

Garretson, a former employee with state Child Protective Services, blamed her actions on a drug addiction.

In January 2012, Garretson hit Nichols with her car while she was trying to flee the parking lot of Goody's clothing store in St. Albans.

"Ms. Garretson chose to steal, she chose to run, she chose to hit me with her car, she chose not to stop to let me off the back of her car and she decided to throw me from her car," Nichols told the judge in court Monday.

Police say Nichols, who was not in uniform at the time, followed Garretson to her car after she set off the store's security alarm. Witnesses said Nichols ordered the woman to stop as she was getting in her car and jumped onto the vehicle's trunk as she was backing out.

Garretson began driving erratically and Nichols was thrown from the vehicle. He was in intensive care at CAMC General Hospital for several days after the incident.

Nichols, 37, said he's lost his sense of smell, his ability to taste and has trouble hearing, which will only get worse with age. He's been confined to desk duty because of his injuries but believes he'll be able to return to full duty Jan. 1.

"She continues to fail to accept responsibility," Nichols told the judge.

"I'm telling you, Mr. Nichols, I am sorry," Garretson said, looking back at the trooper, who turned his head to avoid her gaze.

Sharon Harris, Garretson's mother, told the judge her daughter wasn't a violent person and had a good work ethic. About eight years ago, she said, Garretson got hooked on pain medication prescribed for severe migraine headaches.

"She put herself through five years of college," Harris said. "She's a very good mother."

Garretson and her mother asked the judge, through tears, to allow her sentence to run at the same time as the one she received in Putnam County.

After the hearing, Nichols said despite his injuries, he wasn't afraid to return to work.

"They worried about that, even how I would react to cars backing up," he said.

Nichols also said that he doesn't believe he was wrong for going after Garretson while he wasn't wearing his uniform.

"I can't turn my head to shoplifting. What would be next? A domestic? A DUI?" he said. "I can't turn my back on crime. I'm trained to do that."

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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