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Woman pleads guilty to burglary in Cayuga County prostitution case

Woman pleads guilty to burglary in Cayuga County prostitution case

Shannon Terwilliger entered dwellings on two Venice dairy farms in 2017 — at one, she offered another woman for prostitution services, at the other, she stole a wallet. 

Terwilliger, 38, who lived at 10827 Duck Lake Road when she was arrested by the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office in April, was scheduled to begin a week-long trial on Monday. Instead, she pleaded guilty. 

On Nov. 29, 2017, Terwilliger and a female co-defendant entered housing at one dairy farm and left after the workers said they weren't interested in prostitution services, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Valdina on Monday. Then, the two entered a second home, covering their hands with their shirts as to not leave fingerprints, and stole a wallet and debit card from a man's pair of pants found in the home while he was out working in the field.

The victim whose wallet was stolen alerted the police when he was notified by his bank that his card had been used at a gas station in Genoa, Valdina said. 

The prostitution victim and Terwilliger's co-defendant, was charged with fourth-degree possession of stolen property because she had used the card at the gas station, Valdina said. He believes Terwilliger likely gave her the card to use, knowing there would be cameras. The co-defendant, who has no criminal history, was highly cooperative throughout the prosecution and won't be serving any time in prison, Valdina said.

Terwilliger, however, is facing up to 30 years in prison as a second-violent-felony offender and the possibility of life in prison as a third-felony offender, her defense attorney Rome Canzano said Monday.

Valdina said the situation wasn't much unlike the situation when Clarence Brown was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2008 for his conviction of second-degree felony burglary and one year in jail for promoting prostitution, a misdemeanor. Brown was convicted of offering migrant worker victims prostitution services before robbing them.

Valdina said people will sometimes bring girls around as prostitutes to farm workers' housing, and if they don't find customers or find empty housing, they will steal things instead. 

Terwilliger was an accomplice of Brown and testified at his 2008 trial, Valdina said. In June 2008, Terwilliger, then living in Auburn, was promised a maximum of three years in prison for her role in stealing a 42-inch plasma screen TV due to a plea deal in exchange for her testimony against Brown.

Apparently, Valdina said, she didn't learn her lesson.

Terwilliger was arrested in April following an investigation into the Nov. 29, 2017 incident. 

While Canzano said her felony charges included two counts of second-degree attempted burglary, grand larceny, conspiracy, and criminal possession of stolen property along with misdemeanor charges of petit larceny and promoting prostitution, she pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree attempted burglary.

Canzano said there were claims that Terwilliger and her co-defendant stole from and prostituted at both locations, but there were inconsistencies with proposed testimonies. Two male witnesses claimed items were stolen, but denied there was any prostitution. He said Terwilliger's plea "was an agreeable way" to resolve the case taking the issues with regard to evidence into consideration.  

In exchange for her plea, Terwilliger will likely serve 5.5 years in prison, with five years of post-release supervision. Canzano said it's likely that she'll be released after about 44 months of incarceration. He said her taking the deal was a "no-brainer." If convicted at trial, Canzano said she likely would have had to serve a minimum of 10 to 15 years in prison.

"It was an agreeable disposition taking into account her exposure," Canzano said of the case's resolution.

"We feel it was a good outcome in this case," Valdina said.

Valdina said Terwilliger posted a $10,000 bond so she is out on bail until she is due back in court March 12 for sentencing.

Staff writer Megan Ehrhart can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or Follow her on Twitter @MeganEhrhart.


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