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Thief claims purse found at Medford Center

A purse left behind in a shopping cart was found by a good Samaritan and returned to its owner, but not before another woman claimed it first and spent the cash inside on video poker, Medford police said.

Misty Senter, 32, was arrested Friday on charges of second-degree theft, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Police were called to the Safeway store at the Medford Center at 4:50 p.m. Friday to investigate the purse theft, Medford police Detective Sgt. Mike Budreau said.

A 17-year-old girl who lives nearby found a purse that had been forgotten in a shopping cart in the parking lot Friday afternoon and asked other shoppers if the handbag was theirs or if they knew who it belonged to, Budreau said.

A woman whom police later identified as Senter told the finder it was hers and took the bag.

Moments later, the purse's real owner — a 90-year-old woman from Walnut Creek, Calif., who was in town visiting family — returned to the store in search of her purse, which she believed she had left in a shopping cart. As she asked after the bag, the teen "put it together" and realized she had handed the purse over to a thief, Budreau said.

The girl, who was at the store with her mother, and the elderly woman called police. As they told the responding officer what had happened, they saw Senter come out of Lumpy's, a lottery outlet in the shopping center.

"The witnesses started yelling 'There she is; that's the woman with the purse,' " Budreau said.

Senter started to run, but the officer chased her. She dashed past startled onlookers in front of the grocery store, with the officer in pursuit as they dodged between businesses near Crater Lake Avenue.

The officer caught up with her outside Little Caesar's Pizza and wrestled her to the ground.

The purse was returned to its rightful owner, but $80 was missing, likely spent at Lumpy's, police said.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.