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When a recently released ex-convict was taken into custody Thursday in a couple of holiday thefts at Walden Galleria, her first words to a state parole officer were, “What took you so long? I was all over the media.”

That was the account that Cheektowaga Police Capt. James Speyer gave when announcing that Judith M. Nestel, 64, had been arrested at about 9 a.m. at her Bailey Avenue apartment.

Nestel, a former Buffalo and Town of Tonawanda resident, was released Dec. 19 from the state’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for women after serving nine years and three months of a 12-year prison term for arson.

A photo of Nestel walking through Walden Galleria after one of two thefts from employee areas at two mall stores was released to the news media Wednesday and broadcast, including on buffalonews.com.

Police and Walden Galleria management appreciated help from the public and news media, Speyer said. “We got tips that resulted in her arrest,” he said, “and they are still coming in even though she is now in custody and awaiting arraignment in Cheektowaga Town Court [today].”

Wednesday, police described the Walden Galleria thief as a woman about 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighing about 180 pounds who walks with a limp.

They said she first struck at about 2:25 p.m. on Christmas Eve, entering the employee locker room at BEBE and taking a wallet from an unlocked locker.

Police believe she returned at about 1:10 p.m. Saturday, this time going to the employee locker room at Pottery Barn and taking items from a worker’s purse.

Nestel is a twice-convicted felon, according to state prison records.

She pleaded guilty in June 2003 to setting two fires at a Huetter Street apartment building in Buffalo in September 2002. Nobody was injured in the fires, which Nestel set because of a grudge with another building resident, according to Buffalo News accounts from that time.

State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia sentenced her Sept. 3, 2003, to 12 years in state prison.

She was sentenced as a second felony offender because of her conviction in 1999 for a Buffalo robbery.

In exchange for her pretrial guilty plea in the apartment building arson, Nestel was spared prosecution in a third case involving a July 2002 theft of a purse containing credit cards and $80 cash at Kenmore Mercy Hospital, according to News archives.

Nestel was charged in the Walden Galleria thefts with four counts of fourth-degree grand larceny and one count of petit larceny. Because of her criminal history, she could face up to 16 years if convicted as charged.

Under her release terms from prison last month, she was to be on post-release parole supervision until December 2017, according to state prison records.

email: mgryta@buffnews.com