BY ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY — A registered sex offender who snatched a phone from an elderly Traverse City woman as she sat on her lawn appeared to be under the influence of "spice," police said.
Spice is a term used for a wide variety of synthetic marijuana substitutes recently made illegal under Michigan law. Traverse City police said Wilton Campos-Palacios, 27, of Traverse City, smoked some not long before he wandered up to a woman, 84, as she watered the lawn of her Wellington Street home at about noon Friday.
The woman heard him singing as he stumbled along, Traverse City Police Capt. Steve Morgan said. He stopped in front of her house, saw a cordless phone in her hand and made his move.
"He was staggering, an out-of-his-mind kind of thing," Morgan said. "He grabbed the phone out of her hand and away he went."
As he took off, a witness chased after him. Campos-Palacios grabbed a man on a bike just about the time the witness caught up to him and knocked him to the ground. It's possible he intended to try to escape on the bike, Morgan said.
Officers eventually arrested Campos-Palacios for violating parole.
He's a registered sex offender who spent about 10 months in prison after a 2008 conviction for second-degree criminal sexual conduct and assault with intent to commit sexual penetration.
Campos-Palacios said he smoked spice before the incident. Morgan said he's seen several people do "extremely weird things" after smoking spice, and he's glad it's no longer legal.
"It's a good thing that it's been outlawed so it's not readily accessible," he said.
The woman didn't want to press charges against Campos-Palacios, so police aren't requesting any from the prosecutor's office.
Even if he didn't intend to hurt the woman, something could easily have gone wrong, Morgan said.
"Although nobody was hurt in this incident, it could have been a lot worse," he said. "People that age can break bones very easily."
A Michigan Department of Corrections supervisor didn't return a call for comment. Offenders can be sent back to prison for violating parole.