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Woman serving time for shootout with Murray Police says incarceration saved her life

SALT LAKE CITY -- Five years ago, Sandra Chotia-Thompson went to prison in connection with a string of armed robberies with her girlfriend, one of them resulting in a shootout with police.

On Thursday, Chotia-Thompson appeared before a parole board for the first time and it appears she could be released within the next few years.

“I love this state and I love this city and they’ve done nothing less than save my life, and I’m very grateful,” Chotia-Thompson said.

Chotia-Thompson could barely hold back the tears during the hearing.

She spoke about the drug abuse that led to the spree of armed robberies between December of 2012 and January 2013 with Kelly Simons.

“The lure of heroin is very strong because it really does take away all your physical and emotional pain, and I really did have a lot,” Chotia-Thompson said.

During one of the robberies, the women got into a shootout with Murray Police. They got away that time, but days later Simons was killed while fleeing from U.S. Marshals. Chotia-Thompson eventually landed in prison, pleading guilty to attempted aggravated murder.

“I see my survival as miraculous; I tried to kill myself twice in the county jail,” Chotia-Thompson said.

Chotia-Thompson told the parole board being locked up saved her life. She got clean, earned her high school diploma, and is now teaching other inmates.

“I always felt like I could use the things that I’ve been through, that all of it would not be in vain if I was able to use it to help other people,” Chotia-Thompson said.

Chotia-Thompson was facing two sentences of five years to life. However, according to the parole board, they are prepared to release her within the next few years.

“I also believe that you can make a better life, I believe that you mean that, I believe that you have a great support system that will help you to make better decisions,” said Don Blanchard with the Board of Pardons.