UPDATED 12/22/11 – 4:45 p.m.
CRESTWOOD, Ill. (CBS) — A man has been charged with stealing a donation jar intended for a cancer patient, in a crime that left many people asking, “How could he?”
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, Joseph Campione, 45, of Palos Hills, turned himself in Thursday morning at the Crestwood police station. Campione now stands charged with felony theft in the Dec. 5 incident at the Shop-Mart convenience store, at 13650 Cicero Ave. in Crestwood.
Neither Campione nor his attorney commented as they walked into the police station.
Later Wednesday, bond for Campione was set at $100,000, in part because of his lengthy criminal record.
The theft of the donation jar was captured on surveillance video. The jar was supposed to help Kelly Stawicki, 28, of Alsip, who is battling stage 3 colon cancer.
“I couldn’t believe it; I mean, there’s no words to describe how you feel at the moment – hurt, mad,” Stawicki said.
Stawicki has had half her colon removed since April. She is unemployed and uninsured, and has racked up over $100,000 in hospital bills, her stepfather Nick Becker said.
“Every little bit helps. I mean, I have a lot of bills,” Stawicki said.
Her stepfather was similarly angry.
“It tore me apart. I mean, why pick on my baby? You know? We’re going through enough problems as it is,” Becker said.
What would Stawicki say to Campione, assuming he is guilty?
“I don’t know why we did it. I mean, he might have needed the money for God knows what. But I just hope that one day in the future, if anybody in his family is sick, that nobody does it to him,” Stawicki said.
Campione’s defense attorney, Mike Gillespie, acknowledged that surveillance video evidence is “very damaging, if it’s your client in the video tape,” but added, “I’m not saying that’s him in the videotape.”
Gillespie also said that Campione is suffering from medical issues of his own, including a recent surgery to remove a growth in his chest.
“When the evidence fleshes out in this case, you’re going to see that there are some extenuating circumstances which haven’t come to light, yet,” Gillespie added, although he declined to elaborate.
Meanwhile, there is some good news that came out of the ordeal. An anonymous donor came forward and gave Stawicki $10,000 in order to help defray her medical expenses.
“I mean, it stunned us all, first of all, that somebody out there had a heart like that,” Becker said. “There are good people out there. So, actually, this brought something good out of the bad thing.”
There was more good news Thursday afternoon, when the Crestwood Firefighters Association and other community groups stepped up to help out Stawicki.
“Our Christmas right now is fantastic,” Becker said.
Authorities spent the morning trying to determine whether to charge Campione with a misdemeanor or a felony. The dollar amount was far less than the $500 that would automatically make the crime a felony, but Campione’s prior arrest record stood to make it a felony.
Ultimately, police and prosecutors decided on felony theft charges.
That was due in part to Campione’s criminal record, which includes convictions in 1990, 1991 and 1992 for theft and a 2003 conviction for DUI and driving on a suspended license, for which he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.