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Tue, Jan. 21

He did it; she did it: Two suspects charged in Taco Bell robbery plead not guilty

Zion Eliaz Plotnikoff and Tia Lorrell Stevens (YCSO)

Zion Eliaz Plotnikoff and Tia Lorrell Stevens (YCSO)

CAMP VERDE -- The suspects charged in an attempted Cottonwood Taco Bell robbery last month are all pointing fingers at each other, according to probable cause documents submitted to Yavapai County Superior Court.

Zion Eliaz Plotnikoff attended his arraignment via video call from jail on Monday. Tia Lorrell Stevens appeared in person, in-custody.

Plotnikoff, 18, is charged with three counts of aggravated assault and one count of armed robbery relating to an attempted robbery at the Taco Bell in Cottonwood on Jan. 21.

Plotnikoff’s attorney, Stephanie Willison, entered not guilty pleas on behalf of Plotnikoff. He is held on a $150,000 bond. Stevens’ attorney also submitted not guilty pleas.

Stevens and Plotnikoff are the only suspects charged relating to the attempted heist.

In the documents submitted by Cottonwood Police, a white pickup truck pulled up to the Taco Bell drive-thru window short after 11 p.m. The driver pepper-sprayed the Taco Bell employee after being handed their food.

Then a man, with what appeared to be a handgun, jumped from the driver’s side into the Taco Bell through the window and attempted to rob the restaurant. During the fight, the employee was hit over the head by the suspect with the gun and repeatedly pepper-sprayed by the driver. Court documents state the employee was sprayed a total of three times throughout the altercation. The suspect fled through the same window.

The victim required six staples to his head.

The employee later told police the suspect demanded money. Despite the suspects paying for their food, no money was taken from the restaurant.

Plotnikoff, of Clarkdale, was identified as a suspect and arrested two days later. The “gun” was not a handgun, but a “metal handgun-style pellet gun, a simulated deadly weapon,” according to court documents.

Plotnikoff was located at a Cottonwood hotel by police. In the hotel room, police found a camouflage jacket with the sleeves removed, hair color supplies, hair clippers, a wig, as well as Walmart receipts for an air gun, face paint, and a bandana.

After being taken into custody, Plotnikoff told police he knew the other suspect, as well as her daughter and husband. He admitted to purchasing the air gun, which was not located in the hotel room, for his cousin’s birthday. This statement was refuted to police by his aunt.

Plotnikoff also told police he knew about the incident at Taco Bell prior to it occurring. He stated Stevens offered 40 percent of what she and her husband collected from the robbery if they could use his hotel room to get ready. He told police he bought the items at Walmart so they wouldn’t be seen on camera and stated he applied makeup to Stevens’ husband prior to the failed robbery.

The other suspect, 36-year-old Stevens, was arrested four days after the attempted robbery. She is facing charges of armed robbery, aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated assault, unlawful flight from a pursuing vehicle, and tampering with evidence.

Police located Stevens in Cottonwood. After being taken into custody, Stevens admitted she was the driver of the suspect vehicle during the robbery, driving Plotnikoff to Walmart, and to being at his hotel room prior to the robbery.

Police confirmed Plotnikoff’s purchases at Walmart via security footage.

Stevens then told police once they arrived at the Taco Bell, Plotnikoff told her he was going to commit the robbery and told her to spray the employee with pepper spray – which she did out of fear of Plotnikoff.

She detailed eluding police pursuit, after which Plotnikoff exited the truck. The vehicle fled from officers into a desert terrain between Cottonwood and Clarkdale. Stevens told police she drove to a secluded area on Mingus Mountain and stayed in the vehicle overnight.

Stevens said her adult daughter was in the backseat during these events but was asleep until sometime during the pursuit. She claimed her daughter and husband had no knowledge or involvement in the incident at Taco Bell.

Stevens led police to the abandoned truck as well as a disposed trash bag containing evidence.

In the trash bag, police found: two air guns, a camouflage jacket with the sleeves removed, a wig, a black hat, black latex gloves, a mask – and a Taco Bell wrapper.

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