A man allegedly robbed a Spokane Valley Dollar Store with his mom in the car, and Spokane County Sheriff's deputies used their own credit cards to get the woman a room at a nearby Comfort Inn.
At about 8:30 p.m. Monday night, Harley Smerz and his mother pulled off the interstate and stopped at the Dollar Tree on Argonne to get some bottled water.
"The employee told deputies Mr. Smerz came in, purchased bottled water and while she was giving him his change he reached over, pushed her hand out of the way and grabbed a fairly large amount of money out of the cash register," said Spokane County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Chamberlin.
Employees followed Smerz outside and got a good description of a blue Ford with North Carolina plates speeding away.
Deputy Nathan Bohanek stopped Smerz after he was back on the interstate and that's when Smerz's mom got the bad news.
"Mr. Smerz's mother was extremely apologetic. She was very upset with what her son had done and very apologetic to the deputies that her son had put them in that situation," Chamberlin said.
Smerz was hauled off to jail and booked on a second degree robbery charge. Instead of impounding his getaway car, deputies photographed the Ford and released it to his mother. And instead of leaving Smerz's mom stranded along the interstate, they drove her to the Comfort Inn where one of the deputies used his own credit card to get the 66-year-old into a room.
"Your honor, my mother and I have been driving to North Carolina. Everything we own is in that car. She's got a lot of medical issues. She is barely able to drive, totally unable to drive at night," Harley Smerz said at his initial court appearance.
When Comfort Inn management learned about Mrs. Smerz's predicament they decided to comp her stay.
Apparently compassion is contagious.
"The Comfort Inn by no means had to credit the card back that the deputies used personally to pay for the room for Miss Smerz. They did and I tell you what, that's a great organization and business," said Chamberlin.
Tuesday in court the judge learned about Smerz's 34 prior convictions and zero ties to this community. His bail was set at $20,000.
Thanks to the alleged robbery, Smerz has essentially stranded his mother in Spokane.
Thanks to the Comfort Inn staff, she's got one more free night to come up with a plan.