By Mark Gilger

SHAMOKIN - A 44-year-old Shamokin woman who committed a strong armed robbery early Sunday morning near Lincoln and Eighth streets is behind bars today after witnesses chased her and made a "citizens' arrest."

Tonya Marie Williams, of 19 E. Independence St., Apt. 2, who told police she committed the robbery to support her crack cocaine addiction, was arraigned by on-call Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III on two felony counts of robbery involving the 1:23 a.m. disturbance.

She was committed to Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury in lieu of $50,000 cash bail.

According to a criminal complaint filed by Cpl. Bryan Primerano, Williams is accused of pulling a purse from an unidentified 49-year-old Shamokin woman and banging the victim against a wall before attempting to flee the scene.

The victim told police she was walking east from the Turkey Hill Minit Market on Lincoln Street when Williams made verbal contact with her before walking up from behind and telling the victim she needed her black purse. Police said Williams used excessive force in grabbing the purse, causing the strap to break. The victim told police she "held on for dear life and yelled for help."

The victim said a group of young people them came to her rescue. Police said a few of the witnesses chased Williams and detained her until police arrived.

An 18-year-old female, who was not identified by police, reported five witnesses were riding on Eighth Street near Lincoln Street when they viewed a female being attacked, robbed and screaming for help. The witnesses said they spotted a woman later identified as Williams trying to grab the victim's purse and forcing her against a wall. When the witnesses stopped their vehicle, Williams ran from the scene before being apprehended by a few of the witnesses. The remaining witnesses checked on the well being of the victim and called 911 for assistance, police said.

Primerano praised the witnesses for assisting the victim and chasing down the defendant.

Upon being taken into custody by police, Williams said she had two bags of "fake dope" in her back pocket. Two small plastic bags of a chunky and powdery substance were found in her back pocket by police.

After being read her Miranda rights by Primerano shortly before 2 a.m., Williams agreed to talk further with police.

She said the "girls" wanted her to sell bags of fake dope to get money for drugs and claimed it was her idea to steal the purse. The reference to "girls" was not explained in the affidavit.

Williams said she was walking around Turkey Hill Minit Market looking for a victim to rob and chose the 49-year-old woman because she was alone.

Williams claimed she never meant to hurt the victim and was hoping the purse had money in it so she could buy more crack cocaine, which she was smoking prior to the robbery.