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81-year-old recovering after purse-snatching attempt; suspect charged with assault

The suspect's mom turned him in, police say, after they say he tried to steal an 81-year-old's purse at a Walgreens in St. Paul and gave her a concussion.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Two days before Christmas, Judy Stuthman strolled into her neighborhood Walgreens on Larpenter Avenue in St. Paul to finish a round of holiday errands.

The 81-year-old, a Nebraska native who moved to the East Metro in 1968, barely made it to the front door.

"I did feel somebody brush by me and try to grab my purse," Stuthman said. "I don't remember falling. I don't remember hitting my head."

As store surveillance video would later show, a man had tried to swipe Stuthman's purse from her left hand as she entered the Walgreens, slamming her down to the concrete in the process and knocking her unconscious. Even so, Stuthman managed to hold onto her purse, prompting the suspect to run away empty-handed. 

Walgreens staff called for paramedics. 

"I don't understand the depth of the anger, or hate," Stuthman said, "that would bring that about."

Soon enough, Stuthman woke up in the back of an ambulance, with a brain bleed and a concussion. She would spend the next five days in the hospital, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, bolstered by visits from her daughters and well-wishes from other family and friends. Still, during her stay at United Hospital in St. Paul, she passed out from dizziness and fractured her pelvis.

While Stuthman recovered, Saint Paul Police asked the public to "help get her justice." The department published the Walgreens surveillance video on social media, to see if anyone recognized the suspect. 

Someone did.

His mother. 

"How very bad I feel for her," Stuthman said.

According to a criminal complaint, 18-year-old Isaiah Foster's mom "recognized the coat he was wearing" in the video released by police, telling investigators on Dec. 29 that "I'm 100 percent sure that is him." Foster's mom, whose full name is not identified in the complaint, then said "she does not trust police officers but wanted to do the right thing. She prayed about it, and turned her son in. She loves her son but did not raise him like that."

A police sergeant promptly searched Foster's name in the system and learned that he had been arrested one day earlier, on Dec. 28, in a St. Paul carjacking case, and was already sitting in jail. 

Foster, of Richfield, is now charged with first-degree aggravated robbery and third-degree assault for injuring Judy Stuthman. During a virtual first court appearance Monday Foster denied the charges against him. Judge Reynaldo Aligada ordered bail for Foster set at $50,000, noting the nature of the crimes he allegedly committed against the elderly woman, and ordered that he stay away from the Walgreen's at 1110 Larpenteur Avenue. An omnibus hearing is set to be held over Zoom on Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. 

While Stuthman said she was pleased to learn of an arrest, her feelings about Foster's mother are much more complicated.

"I'm a parent. I can't imagine having to do that to your child, to report them. But I'm sure she sees it as the only possible way to maybe turn his life around," Stuthman said. "That had to be a devastating thing for her to do, but I'm so grateful that she did, and I hope it leads to a much better outcome for him."

Stuthman said she doesn't harbor anger toward Foster, and that she's willing to forgive the 18-year-old — eventually.

"I'm not quick enough to say that I'll forgive him right away. I'll forgive him when he shows that he's doing something to turn his life around," Stuthman said. "That's the time that my forgiveness would come." 

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