From Rensselaer County Crime Story to All-American Love Story

By Quack Davis

Published May 17th, 2015

EAST GREENBUSH – A burglar burst into Martha Shamster’s basement and straight into her heart.

It all started back in January when Jamberger Merkwood of Cohoes — a three-time convicted felon and former commissioner in the Rensselaer County Correctional Facility Fantasy Football League — gambled his freedom on the hope he could steal a 12-pack of Diet Pepsi from Shamster’s home to fix his insatiable caffeine addiction.

But all bets were off when the 33-year-old Merkwood found himself staring into the doll-like eyes of Shamster, whom he described as a portlier pock-mocked version of former “Family Ties” star Tina Yothers.

The love-struck couple quickly exchanged Facebook information and cellphone numbers. And, they arranged plans to walk around Schenectady where they agreed to meet the next week for their first date.

While doing the Electric City, the love birds held hands as they skipped through Hamilton Hill, frolicked along the Mohawk River where they gazed at native Scotians and later window-shopped at Price Chopper in Colonie.

The rest, as they say, is romance history — well, except for the part where Merkwood was later arrested for stealing Shamster’s Social Security number and using it to rack up $4,000 worth of Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi and Pringles.

But not even that could derail the “Bullet Train to Love” the two had climbed aboard.

Eventually, Shamster was compelled to testify against her beau by State Police and the office of Rensselaer County District Attorney Fernando Acropolis. Merkwood was ultimately sentenced to 3 to 9 years at Upstate Correctional Facility — in no small part because of Shamster's testimony.

But with the trial over, Shamster says she’s now compelled to testify to anyone who will listen that Merkwood is a keeper.

“If you told me a year ago I’d fall in love with my burglar I’d say you were bonkers,’’ Shamster told the Smudge, beaming ear-to-ear during an interview at the maximum-security prison in Malone where she traveled for a conjugal visit with Merkwood.

“You never know when you will find 'The One',” Shamster said.  “You just got to follow your heart. I did and it brought me Jamburger. He's mine, all mine.”


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