Five years ago, a security camera captured a dramatic holdup at a convenience store in Texas. It turned out to be the first of a series of five store robberies pulled off by a well-organized gang.
The holdups didn't make much news for residents in the community, until the gang members were finally caught and their identities revealed. Correspondent Erin Moriarty reports.
Four teenage girls were moonlighting as armed robbers, and they were all middle- and upper-class high school students living in Kingwood, an affluent area of Houston. They had boastfully called themselves "The Queens of Armed Robbery."
Judge Mark Ellis says he had never faced defendants quite like these in his court: "The first thing I thought when I saw them is that they were drug addicts … part of the reason the crimes were being committed was to get money for dope."
Lisa Warzeka, 17, a gifted athlete with hopes for a college scholarship, was the last person you'd ever expect to commit a robbery. When 48 Hours first met her, more than four years ago, she was facing trial for robbery.
Now, she's 21 and more than halfway through the seven-year prison sentence she received for armed robbery.
"It's gone by pretty fast. I've kept myself pretty busy," says Lisa, who admits that it was unbearable when she first got to prison. "I was in a cellblock where they have a lot of people coming in. Two people tried to slit their throats. I think another tried to hang herself … some people just get that hopeless."
Lisa had hoped to avoid prison, and she and co-defendant Katie Dunn pleaded guilty, hoping they'd get probation from a sympathetic jury. But instead, she was sentenced to serve time in a Texas state prison. At the time, it seemed like a harsh sentence for first offenders, and a risk that the girls who went in as teens would come out as hardened criminals.
But four years later, Lisa is not exactly doing hard time at the Gatesville Women's prison outside Waco, Texas. During her time, she's managed to graduate from high school, earn an associate's degree and has been accepted by the University of Texas for her bachelor's degree.
She's lost friends from home, but she has regained close relations with her sister and her parents, who once thought they had forever lost the little girl they raised.
"She was constantly in our face. Very aggressive, very hostile," recalls Lisa's father, Rand Warzeka. "It was like somebody had come into her body and taken the Lisa we knew out, and another bad, foul-mouthed, bad attitude person came inside and was living in our house."
But today, the old Lisa is back. "I don't wanna say I feel grateful for coming to prison. But I definitely appreciated, kind of, the experiences, in a sense, because it's gotten me closer to my family," she says.
However, there have been disappointments. Last year, Lisa was turned down in her first attempt at parole. "All I can do is, you know, apologize and move on," says Lisa.
Does she think it's possible that she'll have to serve her entire seven-year sentence? "It's possible," she says. "I'm hoping for the best, but kind of expecting the worst."