Missouri Woman Sentenced in Birmingham to 19 Years in Prison for 2016 Multi-State Crime Spree
BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge today sentenced a Missouri woman to more than 19 years in prison for conspiracy and armed carjackings connected to a four-state crime spree in 2016 that ended with her partner’s death in a shoot-out with police in Florida, announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr.
U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala sentenced BRITTANY NICOLE HARPER, 32, of Joplin, Mo., to 19 years and three months in prison on one count of conspiracy to transport a stolen vehicle across state lines, two counts of transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines, three counts of carjacking and one count of brandishing a gun during a crime of violence. Harper pleaded guilty to the charges in January. In exchange for Harper’s plea, the government agreed to drop a second count of brandishing a gun during a crime of violence.
“Harper and her companion crossed four states violently threatening the lives of innocent people,” Town said. “This was a rampage, not a crime spree, and the 20 years Harper will spend behind bars compares well to the grave fate suffered by her co-conspirator as a result of their shared malevolence.”
“Harper, who with her partner moved through four states carjacking vehicles and terrorizing citizens, thankfully, no longer poses a threat,” Sharp said. “Today’s sentence guarantees Harper will spend many years behind bars to face the consequences of her actions.
“For days the world watched as Harper and her boyfriend, Blake Fitzgerald, acted out some criminal fantasy of being a modern day Bonnie and Clyde, but the consequences of their actions in the Northern District of Alabama were very, very real,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Erica Williamson Barnes. “Early on a Sunday morning, Harper and Fitzgerald kidnapped a young motel clerk in Tuscaloosa and forced him to ride along with them for over an hour; they pointed a gun at a restaurant employee trying to get to work in a busy shopping district; and they invaded a normally sleepy residential neighborhood and kidnapped a mother in her nightgown away from her two young children,” Barnes said. “Harper did not wield the gun, but she played an active role in terrorizing these three victims and the Northern District as a whole. The sentence imposed today holds her accountable for that and sends the message that there is nothing romantic about violent crime.”
The conspiracy between Harper and her male companion was “to unlawfully obtain vehicles, by whatever means necessary,” including acts of violence, and then to use the stolen vehicles as transportation between various states, according to federal court records.
Police arrested Harper in Milton, Fla., on Feb. 5, 2016, after a face-off with police in which her partner was shot and killed and she was wounded.
The couple launched a 10-day crime spree in Webb City, Mo., on Jan. 26, 2016, when they took a 2009 Cadillac on a test drive from a dealership and never returned. Before arriving in Alabama, the couple burglarized a home in Missouri, where they parked the stolen Cadillac in the garage and stole a 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer parked at the home.
The crimes Harper and her co-conspirator committed in Alabama, according court records, included:
Stealing an air pump at the Walmart in Bessemer on Jan. 30, 2016, before driving the Trailblazer to Tuscaloosa, where they forced a motel clerk at gunpoint into the backseat of his 2011 Volkswagen Jetta. Harper and her companion drove the Jetta to Hoover on Jan. 31, 2016, and tried, unsuccessfully, to take a Camaro from a McDonald’s employee, and then released the motel clerk in Vestavia Hills.
Soon after releasing the clerk, Harper’s companion entered a home on Monte Vista Drive in Vestavia Hills, where he encountered one of the home owners and his minor children. The co-conspirator put a gun to the man’s neck and began forcing him toward the garage, but the man got free and went for help. The co-conspirator then forced the man’s wife at gunpoint into the homeowners’ 2010 Ford Edge and drove away.
Harper and her companion released the woman near the Grandview Medical Center on Cahaba River Road in Birmingham, and then drove the stolen Ford Edge to Perry County, Ga.
The indictment lists other crimes in Georgia and Florida before Harper’s arrest following a high-speed chase through neighborhoods in Milton, Fla., after police confronted the couple.
The FBI investigated the case, which Barnes and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Felton prosecuted.