St. Paul man gets probation for stealing SUV and wheelchair
Kyle Schultz of St. Paul in an electric wheelchair in September 2023, purchased for him by the O’Neill Hope Foundation, which also helped pay some of the cost of a new wheelchair-accessible minivan. (Courtesy of Jodi Halverson)
Kyle Schultz had a great day Monday, when a brand new electric wheelchair was delivered to his home in St. Paul.
“Everything works for him,” his mother, Judy Halverson, said. “So, we are very grateful.”
Schultz’s SUV, along with the electric wheelchair he used to get around, were stolen in July from the driveway of his home on St. Paul’s east side.
“I just think about the day he called me screaming and crying because his truck was stolen with his wheelchair,” Halverson said Wednesday.
The theft sparked a wave of community support for Schultz, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
The local O’Neill Hope Foundation purchased Schultz a portable electric wheelchair a few days after the theft. The new electric wheelchair was paid for through state disability funds, Halvorson said.
The GoFundMe page raised about $15,300, and O’Neill’s foundation provided the rest of the money for a wheelchair-accessible van, which Rolex Vans sold at Savage at a discount, Halverson said.
A 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan arrived at Schultz’s home on September 16. The foundation also paid for six months of car insurance.
Plea of guilty
Home surveillance video showed an unidentified person prying through the door of Schultz’s 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe to steal it from the driveway of his home in the Pine Phalen neighborhood on the morning of July 10. The SUV was found abandoned the next day in the city’s north end, along with all four. The tires were removed, as were the mirrors, grille and headlights.
Police collected evidence from the car, including a fingerprint, and matched it to Keon Deonte McDowell, 30, of St. Paul, according to the criminal complaint.
McDowell pleaded guilty to the felony charge in August. As part of the plea deal he reached with prosecutors, McDowell received a downward departure from the state’s sentencing guidelines on October 19. The February 6 charge of fleeing police in a vehicle was dropped.
Ramsey County Judge Maria Mitchell suspended a 23-month prison sentence for three years, during which time McDowell will be on probation. He also received 90 days in the county shop, which is how long he can work on electronic home monitoring. Its start date is Thursday.
McDowell has previous convictions for car theft in cases from 2012 and 2013.
In a victim impact statement submitted to the court, Halvorson said McDowell’s probation was “extremely disappointing.”
“You see all over the news about all the vehicles being stolen,” she said Wednesday. “And it doesn’t seem like they’re really punishing people, where they can come back and do the same thing. (McDowell) Stealing that car was a life-changing event for my son. I hope it never happens to anyone else.”
Schultz was 24 years old when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“It’s all been great,” Halverson said of the community support. “It seemed like I was doing everything on my own. My child is 26 years old, and he’s dying. It seemed like it was one bad thing after another. And that gives you hope, that the whole community and everyone stepped forward. Without that, none of this would have been possible.” .