Hospice nurse Linda Pickenpaugh accused of vandalizing cars in Chula Vista

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A 65-year-old woman accused of vandalizing at least 14 cars in Chula Vista and causing thousands of dollars in damage pleaded not guilty Friday.

Chula Vista police say Linda Pickenpaugh, a hospice nurse, was caught on a neighbor's surveillance cameras vandalizing the cars. She was arrested Wednesday and faces four felony counts of vandalism.

In the surveillance footage captured on New Year's Day, a woman believed to be Pickenpaugh is seen walking her dog in the 1000 block of Fourth Avenue in Chula Vista just before 6 a.m. when she keys a brand new car.

"Just seeing the footage just gave me chills," said Vanessa Martinez.

Martinez told 10News after the fourth time her sister's car was keyed, her father installed a surveillance camera. They handed the footage over to police.

Chula Vista police Capt. Lon Turner told 10News, "Typically, you would only see this in cases of malicious mischief with juveniles, but the fact that this lady has a position and a career is highly unusual."

Martinez showed 10News pictures of the damage done to her sister's car when it was keyed several times on different days. At times, the suspect ran a key along it, other times she dug in with a giant "X."

Martinez described what she saw the woman do on the surveillance video: "She had just come up with her dog, not even look at her surroundings, just X the car, kept walking, looked and kept walking normally. Each time it just got deeper and deeper."

Turner said Pickenpaugh admitted keying three vehicles, but investigators believe it's closer to 14.

Martinez said, "She obviously has issues. I mean, why would you do that?"

Police said Pickenpaugh is having financial problems and found this to be an outlet.

Martinez, who is in health care herself, is disturbed by the fact that Pickenpaugh is a hospice nurse, caring for the most vulnerable people in the final moments of their lives.

"What else is this woman capable of?" Martinez said.

After watching 10News' report on Thursday, Chula Vista resident Veronica Lopez called 10News and said her car and her boyfriend's truck were also vandalized.

"I noticed (the scratches) two weeks ago and it was parked on the side street," said Lopez. "I was upset because I just got a new paint job."

Lopez did not call police, but she told 10News she lives behind the home where the surveillance cameras were set up.

"I was shocked. This morning, I actually saw it this morning and I was telling my boyfriend, 'Oh my gosh, that's the lady,' and we could see the apartments and I said, 'That's us, that's our car, that's the lady that did our car,'" said Lopez.

Deputy District Attorney Huy Betz said Pickenpaugh is being investigated for other cases, and she is urging residents to come forward if their vehicles were also targeted.

"The danger to the community and to their own private property, that is obviously a concern to law enforcement and to our office," said Betz.

Pickenpaugh is being held on $10,000 bail.

If Pickenpaugh is able to bail out, a judge ordered her to not have any vandalism tools in her possession. She must also stay away from the area where the incidents happened.

Authorities said the vandalism caused an estimated $4,000 in damage.

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