Alleged Thief Tripped Up by Female Pattern Baldness

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Dec. 26 2013 2:15 PM

Alleged Thief Tripped Up by Female Pattern Baldness

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

Name: Jennifer N. Winters

Alleged crimes: Burglary, theft.

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Fatal mistake: Bad genes, my friend. Bad genes.

The circumstances: There is absolutely nothing good about losing your hair. Premature baldness can affect your self-esteem and your romantic prospects. It can lead to unflattering nicknames like “Cueball” and “Hairless Pete.” Whatever money you save on shampoo, you’ll end up spending on tonics and lotions that promise to regrow your hair, or baseball caps to cover the shame. And, if you are a dumb criminal, your receding hairline can be the sort of thing that will get you arrested.

The Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat brings us the story of a Petaluma-area resident who reported that her debit card had been stolen and used at a local Target. When a cop went down to Target to review some security camera footage, he noticed something helpful: The woman using the stolen card “definitely showed a high hairline, like a pattern of balding or something.” This was a clue, but not a great one. The cop still had no idea who this balding woman was, or where to find her.

What happened next is called “dumb luck.” When the cop went to another store in the same shopping center to review its security footage, who did he see working behind the store’s register? You guessed it: the same woman from the Target tape. “Hanging around the scene of the crime so that the cops can notice my distinctive hairline” is a classic dumb-criminal mistake. The woman was questioned and arrested.

How she could have been a lot smarter: Worn a hat.

How she could have been a little smarter: Used the debit card in a shopping center other than the one where she worked. It’s California, for Pete’s sake! An entire state of nothing but shopping centers! There’s no reason to commit a crime in the one center where you are most likely to be inadvertently discovered by investigating officers.

How she could have been a little dumber: Worn one of those giant foam novelty cowboy hats, and then continued to wear that hat at work.

How she could have been a lot dumber: Used the debit card to buy the giant foam novelty cowboy hat.

Ultimate Dumbness Ranking (UDR): This is less dumb than sloppy. If you know that you are somehow distinctive-looking, it’s your responsibility to conceal those distinctive features when you are committing a crime. Noticeably balding criminals must take care to wear a hat, or a wig, or one of those hats with a wig inside. Jennifer N. Winters’ alleged failure to do so led directly to her downfall. 4 out of 10 for her.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.