Woman charged with felony motor vehicle theft claimed she paid $1,000 at dealership

Smith is also facing a charge of fifth-degree drug possession, a felony-level offense.

Smith Starlene Marie 22020032 S1.jpg
Starlene Smith

COTTONWOOD COUNTY — Charges were filed against Starlene Smith, 41, on Feb. 11 in connection with the alleged theft of a vehicle from a Sioux Falls, South Dakota dealership. Smith, who declined to provide the arresting officer with a current address, is facing one count of motor vehicle theft and a count of fifth-degree drug possession. Both are felony-level offenses.

On Feb. 9, a Cottonwood County Sheriff's Office employee was monitoring radio traffic from Minnesota State Patrol and learned that a 2011 silver Dodge Avenger traveling eastbound on Interstate 90 was reported stolen from the dealership by a woman with active warrants. A dispatch update later informed the deputy that the reportedly stolen vehicle had pinged on Minnesota 86, approximately five miles south of Minnesota 60, and that other members of law enforcement were currently enroute.

When the vehicle pinged near Bingham Lake, the deputy headed westbound on Minnesota 60. Shortly after, the vehicle pinged again near Mountain Lake.

The deputy waited in the median to monitor traffic, and a short time later, a very clean, silver, 4-door Dodge traveling eastbound passed the deputy. The deputy turned eastbound to catch up to the car and confirmed it was a Dodge Avenger with a dealership plate that matched the stolen vehicle's description.

The driver turned onto Cottonwood County 5 and the deputy initiated a felony traffic stop and called out commands for the driver, later verbally identified as Smith. Smith followed commands, shut off the vehicle, opened the door, exited the vehicle, and walked toward the deputy. Smith asked several times what was going on, and the deputy informed her the vehicle she was driving had been reported stolen. According to the report, Smith stated she paid $1,000 for the vehicle.


The deputy handcuffed Smith and conducted a search of her person, during which a clear plastic baggie containing a crystallized substance consistent with meth was reportedly found in Smith’s jacket pocket. Smith allegedly told the deputy that the baggie contained meth and that there was a meth pipe in the vehicle as well. The deputy field-tested the crystallized substance in the baggie and the pipe, both of which tested positive for methamphetamine. The substance was weighed, with packaging, to be 0.48 grams.

A second deputy stayed on the scene with the vehicle until it could be towed to the Cottonwood County Law Enforcement Center. The first deputy contacted Sioux Falls Police Department and was informed that Smith reportedly went to the dealership and requested to test drive the vehicle later reported stolen. Smith filled out an application for the test drive, which included giving the dealership her social security number for identification.

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According to the report, Smith did not put any money down on the vehicle, and never returned after the test drive. The vehicle had a GPS tracker on it, and once the dealership realized that Smith was no longer in the area and had left the state, law enforcement was contacted, and a theft report was made.

If convicted, Smith faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on the charge of motor vehicle theft, and/or a $10,000 fine. The fifth-degree drug possession charge also carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and /or a $10,000 fine. Smith’s bail was set at $10,000 with conditions and her initial court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 22.

Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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