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Mother gets 20 years for robbing bank

July 08, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - After listening to emotional testimony Monday from a young woman whose mother robbed a bank last year and testimony from a teller who said she thought of her own children during the robbery, a judge sentenced Diana Lynn Barrow to serve 20 years in prison.

Barrow, 40, of Bunker Hill, W.Va., wielded a gun and wore a mask when she robbed the F&M Bank branch in Inwood, W.Va., on May 1, 2002. Circuit Judge David Sanders sentenced Barrow, who confessed and pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in May.

Barrow will be eligible for parole after she serves five years of the sentence, according to Assistant Prosecutor Betsy Giggenbach.

After the hearing, Barrow - who had been free on bail since the robbery - was led by a bailiff to a back room. Family members were allowed to speak to her before she was taken to Eastern Regional Jail.

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Several people testified that Barrow was a caring person who seemed incapable of such a crime. Her attorney asked for probation, but Sanders denied the request.

Robbery is a serious offense that is becoming more common in the area, Sanders said, and punishment needed to be imposed as a deterrent. Bank employees should feel safe heading to work, he said.

Brandy Burdette testified that she was working as the head teller at the time of the robbery. Initially, Burdette said, she thought the robbery was a joke, but realized it wasn't when the robber pointed a handgun at her.

Saying Burdette looked trustworthy, Barrow handed the teller a bag and demanded cash. Burdette filled the bag and gave it back to Barrow, who said it was not enough money. Burdette opened a vault and put additional money in the bag. Altogether, $9,422 was taken.

During the robbery, Burdette said she thought of her husband and two children.

"It made me think about my life - if I had done everything right for them," Burdette said.

Along with two other tellers who were working on the day of the robbery, Burdette said she felt probation was not adequate.

Barrow's daughter, Holly, who graduated from high school recently and will soon attend college, testified on behalf of her mother.

"My mom is my best friend," Holly Barrow said. "She's always been there for us, through everything."

Others who testified on Barrow's behalf described her as a kind woman. All said they initially believed police made a mistake when they charged Barrow with the robbery.

Barrow had not faced any previous criminal charges.

Barrow's attorney, Craig Manford, said Barrow robbed the bank because of financial problems. Of all his clients, Barrow seemed to be most genuine in her remorse, he said.

Reading from a prepared statement, Barrow apologized to her family and bank employees and assured Sanders that she would not commit another crime.

Giggenbach, the prosecutor, told Sanders that she opposed probation. "What happens next time she (Barrow) snaps? She murders someone?" Giggenbach said.

After the robbery, witnesses reported seeing a red Jeep Wrangler driving away from the bank. Later that day, police found a 1992 red Wrangler parked in a front yard, a "For Sale" sign in its window.

Investigators connected the Jeep to Barrow and the robbery.

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