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Va. robbery suspects caught in Jefferson Co.

September 30, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

RIPPON, W.Va. - Police nabbed two suspects in a Boyce, Va., bank robbery Tuesday afternoon after linking a Sept. 12 traffic stop in Shepherdstown, W.Va., with a Tuesday car fire in a remote part of Jefferson County, police said.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday, two robbers with masks entered the Bank of Clarke County branch in Boyce, Va., and demanded money, said Clarke County, Va., Sheriff Dale Gardner.

No one was injured in the holdup and the robbers drove off in a Chevrolet Spectrum, stolen from Winchester, Va., Gardner said.

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During the holdup, Clarke County police were at a school that had received a telephoned bomb threat, Gardner said.

Investigators believe the robbers had phoned in the false bomb threat to make sure police were in another part of the county during the holdup, Gardner said.

"It's just too much of a coincidence," Gardner said.

Witnesses at the holdup saw the robbers leave in the Spectrum, he said.

At about 1:30 p.m., Jefferson County deputies were called to a car fire on Ann Lewis Road in a remote, hilly area of Jefferson County, said Chief Deputy Jesse Jones of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

Deputies there spoke to people who saw a bronze-colored Volkswagen Jetta driving away from the burning car, Jones said.

When a description of the car was broadcast, Shepherdstown Police Chief Cecil Arnold recognized the description.

Two of his officers, Billy Parker and Shawn Bonifant, had stopped the same car early on Sept. 12, Jones said.

Parker said he stopped the car for a traffic violation and, while talking to the driver, who did not have a license, he noticed ski masks and a change of clothes in the car. There also was a BB gun made to look like a replica of a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol, Parker said.

Arnold gave police a description of the Volkswagen Jetta. Within 15 minutes, Jones and Deputy Tom Hansen were waiting at the West Virginia-Virginia line, and spotted the car heading south on U.S. 340.

The two followed the car for about two miles while they confirmed the tag number, Jones said.

Jones motioned to the driver to pull over and the driver did, Jones said.

The two men were being held by the Clarke County Sheriff's Department Tuesday night and were still being questioned, Gardner said.

Investigators were trying to obtain a search warrant to look inside the car, Gardner said.

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