Police arrest and jail wrong woman for crimes against elderly

(NBC) - Just hours after Deidria Nicholson, 50, was in court, accused of preying on elderly women and burglarizing their homes, she was released from the Vista County jail, in what's described as a case of mistaken identity.

For days, investigators have been looking for a woman who allegedly followed at least seven elderly women to their homes as they were leaving shopping centers. The suspect would then talk her way inside the victim�s homes.

"The defendant would all of a sudden take off without any notice," said prosecutor Dan Link during the arraignment. "Their purse or pocketbook would be gone."

Last week, San Diego Police officers thought they�d arrested the woman they were looking for, but apparently they were wrong.

"Misidentification is something that happens in our justice system," said Nicholson's attorney Herb Weston. "We're hoping that we can avoid that."

Earlier this month, authorities released a surveillance picture of a heavy set African American woman believed to be responsible for the string of burglaries. Days later, Nicholson was arrested by San Diego Police outside her La Mesa apartment, surrounded by several TV crews.

"There seems to be a difference between the facial characteristics of the individual and my client," Weston told the judge during the arraignment.

On Monday, just hours after Nicholson pleaded not guilty, prosecutors dropped the charges against her as the D.A. realized the wrong woman had been arrested.

Nicholson was released from the Vista jail Monday around 10:30 p.m.

Once neighbors heard about her pending release, they decorated the stairway leading up to her apartment with colored balloons.

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