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Candy store robber jailed for a year

A Sonora man was sentenced to a year in Tuolumne County Jail for robbing an employee of an East Sonora candy shop at knifepoint on Sept. 8.

John Robert Olguin, 23, of the 21100 block of Phoenix Lake Road, was sentenced Monday by Assigned Judge William G. Polley in Tuolumne County Superior Court. Olguin pleaded guilty to a single count of robbery at a Sept. 21 hearing.

The victim and her family said Tuesday they were surprised by Olguin’s sentence, which they thought would be longer.

“What it tells all his friends and the people he runs with is that you can rob someone with a knife,” said the victim’s father, Mark Leonard. “I think that’s going to make criminals more bold when it gets out there.”

The District Attorney’s Office also took issue with the sentence, despite originally agreeing to the plea deal, and submitted a letter to the court seeking to have the agreement quashed.

The argument that the crime warranted time in state prison rather than county jail was ultimately rejected by the court, according to Assistant District Attorney John Hansen.

Hansen noted that Olguin will be required to serve 85 percent of his sentence because his crime is considered a violent felony. Olguin was also ordered to enter a drug rehabilitation program upon his release.

Kasey Leonard, 21, was working in the back of the Columbia Candy Kitchen on the 13700 block of Mono Way when Olguin entered the store around 4 p.m. carrying a 12-inch knife and a bag.

Leonard said in a phone interview that Olguin put the blade on the counter, assured her he wasn’t going to hurt her and then demanded the money from the cash register.

“It’s just a shock,” said Leonard, who has worked for the Columbia Candy Kitchen since she was 15. “That’s never happened before at the store, so I kind of stalled because he said he wouldn’t hurt me, then I just gave him the money.”

The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office reported about $160 cash was taken.

A sheriff’s deputy investigating the incident recognized the description of the suspect as Olguin, who happened to work at a fast food restaurant in the same shopping center as the candy store.

Authorities questioned Olguin at his workplace and a search of his vehicle produced the bag and knife used in the robbery.

Olguin was arrested and booked into Tuolumne County Jail on suspicion of robbery.

Leonard said she was originally granted a six-month restraining order against Olguin and was relieved that it was extended to three years at his sentencing.

“I’m happy about that part,” she said. “And I heard he feels bad, so maybe he’s learned something after being in jail for the past month or so.”

Leonard’s family attended Olguin’s sentencing on her behalf and were not pleased with the punishment, noting several other armed robberies that happened around the same time.

On Aug. 12, a mini-mart on Parrotts Ferry Road in Columbia was robbed by 31-year-old parolee Matthew William Birdsong, who used an Airsoft gun, a replica firearm that fires plastic pellets, to intimidate the store clerk into handing over cash in the register.

The sheriff’s SWAT team arrested Birdsong at a nearby apartment that same night. He was recently sentenced in Tuolumne County Superior Court to five years in prison.

Days before the incident at the Columbia Candy Kitchen, a man disguised in a fake beard and wig held a Walmart employee at gunpoint while he stole an undisclosed amount of cash from a back room office.

That robber remains at large.  

Contact Alex MacLean at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 588-4530.

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