Police Charge Behavioral Medicine Professor in Grocery Store Theft

Woman allegedly stuffed a box of macaroni and cheese and a household cleanser in her purse.

An assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Des Moines University was charged with aggravated theft after employees of a West Des Moines grocery store alleged she stolen items valued at $5.94.

Nicole Brodersen, an assistant manager at , 5003 E.P. True Pkwy., and Douglas Fletcher, the frozen foods manager, had detained the suspect, Rebecca Monsma of West Des Moines, when  Jason Heintz arrived on April 6.

The store officials alleged Monsma, a licensed social worker, took a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese and a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day household cleanser from the shelves, then walked to the store’s liquor aisle and concealed them in her purse.

The police report said Brodersen and Fletcher had suspected Monsma of shoplifting during the past several weeks, but had been unable to catch her in the act.

Fletcher told police he confronted Monsma and she said she would pay for the items, but instead she attempted to leave the store. According to the police report, Fletcher grabbed Monsma by the wrist and shoulder in an attempt to stop her, but she “continued to struggle and scratched Fletcher on his right cheek.”

Officer Heintz said in his report that Monsma "was acting very strange. Due to my training and experience, it was obvious that she was under the influence of some kind of drug.”

Heintz said when he interviewed Monsma, “she continued to say she would pay for the items and could not believe that this was happening.”

The police officer said Monsoma asked that he document in his report bruising that occurred to her wrist when Fletcher detained her.

Officials with Des Moines University, a post-graduate health sciences university in Des Moines, have not returned phone calls seeking comment.

A call to Monsma’s extension at the school was directed to the office of Debra Bustad, an academic assistant in the Department of Behavioral Medicine, where Monsma is listed as an assistant professor.

Stewart McHinnery April 15, 2012 at 12:34 AM
And she teaches ethics at DMU?
Katie Bennet April 15, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Regardless of her background, it is clear she has made a mistake; however as a human being I am surely not without wrong doing, and although I am thoroughly saddened by this, my character is certainly not flawless enough to render my throwing of stones.
Mike Eastman April 15, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Ms. Monsma is a fine professor who teaches with compassion and humility. This only illustrates how no one is immune to the factors that can adversely influence our personal lives and highlights the fact that mental health is an integral part of our overall well-being.
John Smith April 15, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Sounds like Todd Wical needs some counseling from Monsma himself....
John Smith April 15, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Also Todd, you need to learn how to spell before you try to claim your opinion. It makes you sound like a moron when you don't spell things right....
Adam April 15, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Todd, I could not disagree with you more. Scratching an employee is an inappropriate response if you are not guilty of a crime. If she was not guilty, she would have no reason to act out. Theft is defined as stealing, regardless of the amount of the product. Plus, store employees don't randomly assume shoppers are stealing. They must have had good reason to suspect her for WEEKS of stealing. Also, the police officer, or POLICE OFFICER, as you like to call them, has probably been seeing cases like this every day for the past 20 years. I have a very good feeling that he can tell when people lie to him and are intoxicated, whether it be alcohol or drugs. In no way is Rebecca to be portrayed as a victim, even if she was innocent of theft. A victim is someone who is wronged against. If this case was a simple misunderstanding, Rebecca would not be charged with aggrevated theft. She is to blame for the events that transpired. She should have set an example for her students and accepted responsibility for her actions. Instead, by continuing to leave the store, she dug her own grave. I will not attest to whether or not she is guilty of attempted theft or intoxication on any level. I am simply stating that she should not have physically harmed a store employee. Students at DMU are expected to uphold the school's reputation. It is my belief that teachers do the same. Especially ethics teachers
Lord Cuntington of Twatsworth April 15, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Watch out, don't fudge with ole' Johnny "apple-seed" Smith...I rightfully appoint him to the title of Wordsmith Patrol Officer. That's a great title to add onto your CV along with: douche-bag, internet troll/bully, and felcher [look it up]. Whilst correct grammar is always appreciated, I've never heard that it is mandatory to express one's opinion.
Wrenny J. April 16, 2012 at 02:36 PM
I know Ms. Monsma and I don’t believe that shoplifting was ever on her mind. Also, she is a very petite and while she’s not ancient, she isn’t young either. I’m sure that the assault she was subjected to was both shocking and frightening to her. Since I have been the victim of this sort of treatment for "shoplifting", I can understand how this might have gotten blown out of all proportion. In my case, I had even paid for the item and had the receipt before I was assaulted! I had bought a pair of hose because the pair I had on got a run. I kept the receipt on top of the package and asked employees where the restroom was so I could change. Apparently one well meaning employee didn't see the receipt and reported me as a shoplifter. Not only did the manager grab and shake me, but he dragged me through the store, even after I produced the receipt, to get a witness statement from the cashier who rang my purchase. I have no doubt that Ms. Monsma was browsing the store and unaware of any concerns the staff had until she was assaulted. While I don’t think it’s wise to put something in your purse while shopping, I have seen this done by distracted people. It doesn’t make you a thief! I am also very angry that her character is being impugned on the basis of hearsay evidence like “Due to my training and experience, it was obvious that she was under the influence of some kind of drug.” What kind of drug test is this? This is nothing more than gossip mongering.
Penelope April 17, 2012 at 05:48 AM
Well said "Wrenny J."
Sunrise Johnson April 21, 2012 at 04:40 AM
I think we will see when she has her day in court. She deserves due process. I must say it certainly doesn't look good. Also, according to the report she collected the items, and then went to the liquor Dept to conceal them. She did not collect them up and conceal them right away as suggested by Todd. In most every state, you put it in your pocket to conceal it, you are charged with shoplifting. Items go in your cart not in your pocket or purse. Everyone understands this VERY clearly. There is no confusion here. She was stealing stuff and this was not the first, second, or even third time. According to the report they have been trying to catch her for quite some time now and knew her MO. The altercation is going to be really hard to beat in court. Basically if a store employee tells you to stop, you must stop. If you don't you have either committed trespassing or a more severe crime if you hit them. Remember store owners have rights too. They have the right to not get ripped off. I just hope they have good cameras. If they do you can expect a guilty plea. Hopefully she will sober up and get her life back on track but I am sure she will need to go far away from here to do that. Ramona Cuttingham went to Louisiana to get a fresh start. Good example of importance of background checks.
JDHolly September 10, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Ms. Monsma had her day in court, and she was found not guilty in a court of law. I thought all of the individuals in this post that jumped to conclusions would like to know this.
JDHolly September 10, 2012 at 07:44 PM
She was found not guilty. Maybe you should stick to medicine, because law is clearly not your strong point.
JDHolly September 10, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Ok, it was found that there was no proof Ms. Monsma committed this act. Additionally, it was found that Ms. Monsma was not under the influence of drugs nor alcohol when she submitted to a test upon being charged. So clearly not only did the police make unfair accusations, so did the Dahl's employees. The real victim here is Ms.Monsma. Her name was drug through the mud, she lost her job-- all because she is an eccentric woman who the Dahl's employees and WDSM police decided to target.
Susan Hutchinson December 26, 2012 at 02:54 AM
You don't get a fine and community service when you're found not guilty. She plead no contest, which is essentially a guilty plea.
Tad Boyle April 22, 2013 at 09:05 PM
Give me a break Ms. Monsma was not a victim here. And "eccentric"?? That's a generous way to put it. JDHolly either owes this lunatic a favor or is Ms. Monsma herself.


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