A new motorized wheelchair for St. Paul man — and probation for the man who stole his old one

Kyle Schultz had a great day Monday, when a brand new power wheelchair was delivered to his St. Paul home.

“It’s all fitted to him,” said his mother, Jodi Halverson. “So, we’re very thankful.”

Schultz’s SUV, along with the electric wheelchair he used to get around, was stolen in July from his driveway on St. Paul’s East Side.

“I just think of the day he called me screaming and crying that his truck was stolen with his wheelchair,” Halverson said Wednesday.

The theft set off an outpouring of community support for Schultz, who has ALS.

The local O’Neill Foundation of Hope bought Schultz a portable electric wheelchair a few days after the theft. The new power wheelchair was paid for through state disability funds, Halverson said.

A GoFundMe page raised about $15,300, and the O’Neill Foundation provided the rest of the funds needed for a wheelchair-accessible minivan, which Rollx Vans in Savage sold at a discounted price, Halverson said.

The 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan arrived at Schultz’s home Sept. 16. The foundation also paid for six months of insurance for the vehicle.

Guilty plea

Home surveillance video showed an unidentified person prying open a door of Schultz’s 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe to steal it from his driveway in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood the morning of July 10. The SUV was found abandoned the next day in the city’s North End with all four tires removed, as well as the mirrors, grill and headlights.

Police collected evidence from the vehicle, including a fingerprint, which they matched 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 a plea deal he reached with the prosecution, McDowell received a downward departure from state sentencing guidelines on Oct. 19. A Feb. 6 charge of fleeing police in a motor vehicle was dismissed.

Ramsey County Judge Maria Mitchell stayed a 23-month prison sentence for three years, during which time McDowell will be on probation. He also received 90 days in the county workhouse, time he can serve on electronic home monitoring. His start date is Thursday.

McDowell has prior convictions for motor vehicle theft stemming from 2012 and 2013 cases.

In a victim impact statement filed with the court, Halverson said probation for McDowell was “very disappointing.”

“You see all over the news about all the vehicles that are getting stolen,” she said Wednesday. “And it doesn’t really seem like they’re punishing people, that they can go right back and do the same thing. (McDowell) stealing that vehicle was literally a life-changing event for my son. I hope it just never happens to anyone else.”

Schultz was 24 when he was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“This has all been amazing,” Halverson said of the community support. “It just seems like I was doing everything on my own. My kid is 26, and he’s dying. It just seemed like it was one bad thing after another. And this just gives you hope, that the whole community and everybody stepped forward. Without that, none of this would have even been possible.”

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