Fulton woman gets 5-year sentence for threatening Walmart worker with a gun

Lennette M. Varner in March 2024

MORRISON – A Fulton woman who threatened a Walmart worker with a gun after she got caught shoplifting in the self-checkout lane at the Sterling store was sentenced to five years in prison.

Lennette M. Varner, 51, formerly of Clinton, Iowa, pleaded guilty March 8 in Whiteside County court and was sentenced to five years on each count of aggravated robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm, terms that will run concurrently.

Three other counts – armed violence, possession of fewer than 5 grams of meth and possession of fewer than 15 grams of cocaine – were dismissed per a plea agreement.

She was given credit for 63 days served and now is in the Logan Correctional Center with a projected parole date of July 6, 2026, Illinois Department of Corrections records show.

Varner was charged Jan. 8, and those charges were amended Jan. 26 to add the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

She pleaded not guilty Feb. 22 and was screened for drug court. On Feb. 28, a pretrial conference was scheduled for March 27, but instead she entered a plea March 8.

She could have been sentenced to 15 to 30 years for armed violence.

On Jan. 6, Varner was caught under-ringing items – cases of soft drinks, food and some paper towels, which all told rang up at $84.39 – and told the employee who confronted her that she had a gun.

Sterling police said she had a Smith & Wesson .38 Special handgun and some meth in her purse, which was in her car.

The employee took a picture of Varner’s vehicle and called police, who sent an alert to surrounding law enforcement agencies. She was arrested shortly thereafter in Fulton by Illinois State Police.

On Aug. 21, 2001, Varner was convicted in federal court in Iowa of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute as well as possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, and she was sentenced to five years in prison.

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Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.