Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2012 Issue

Woman Jailed for an Overdue Library Book

Portaleslib

Scene of the crime.

Billy the Kid landed in a New Mexico prison for shooting a man. Lori Teel didn't have to do anything quite so dramatic. Mrs. Teel spent her night behind bars for failing to return a library book on time. In New Mexico, they still take crime seriously.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Mrs. Teel took out one of the Twilight books, along with a DVD of the same, from the Portales Public Library a while back. There hasn't been a lot going on in that area since Billy the Kid roamed the territory in the 19th century. Portales is located in eastern New Mexico, with the nearest large city being... there isn't one. It is located closest to Clovis, home to Clovis Man, perhaps the oldest known inhabitants of North America. However, population has been on the decline for the past 13,000 years. Today, there is not so much to do, maybe explaining why Mrs. Teel would feel compelled take out a Twilight book.

Actually, the Journal reported that Mrs. Teel did not even remember taking out the book. Perhaps she didn't, and perhaps she has a selective memory. It is not for me to judge. The Portales Library sent out several overdue notices and late fines to Mrs. Teel. Then, a summons was issued by the Portales Municipal Court. She did not respond. Finally, an arrest warrant was issued to Mrs. Teel. Again, there was no response. Mrs. Teel explained that she no longer lives at the address where the notices were sent. That was a childhood home.

It was beginning to look like Mrs. Teel had pulled off the perfect crime, simply by moving from one Portales address to another. Then, her husband, Jimmy Teel, messed it all up. Mr. Teel evidently didn't realize that when your spouse is involved in crime, you should not do anything to bring attention to her. The police received an assault complaint against Mr. Teel and proceeded to investigate. They went to the Teel home, and it was there that they realized that Mrs. Teel had a warrant out for her arrest. So they did what Pat Garrett would have done when he was sheriff. They placed Mrs. Teel in handcuffs and dragged her off to the Roosevelt County Detention Center. There she was held in jail over night before finally making $610 in bail to secure her release the next morning.

The charges against Mrs. Teel have since been dropped. Why the leniency is not clear. After all, Pat Garrett shot Billy the Kid. Mr. Teel, however, faces charges of aggravated battery and tampering with evidence. Mrs. Teel is now considering a lawsuit against the community, describing the event as traumatizing, particularly for her children, who were forced to spend the night with a neighbor after their mother was dragged off to jail.

There are many things to be learned from this strange case. First, don't borrow Twilight books. If you are going to risk going to jail, make it over Shakespeare. You don't want it going out nationwide over the news wires that you read Twilight. Be careful who you marry. Mrs. Teel might have been better served bringing home a book on anger management for her husband. And, if you are forgetful, or prone to move from one house to another, only take out e-books from your library. These never have to be returned. They simply expire from your electronic reader when the loan period is up. With a few simple precautions, you should be able to avoid going to prison for failure to return a library book on time.

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