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Man charged with robbery says he was buying gas next door

March 28, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - A man charged with armed robbery and conspiracy in two Waffle House restaurant robberies in September 2006 said he was just buying gas next door while his wife displayed a weapon and demanded money at the Williamsport Waffle House.

"He had no idea what was going on," said Michelle Harewood, an assistant public defender.

Henry Russell Powell, of 308 W. Stephen St. in Martinsburg, W.Va., was in Washington County District Court on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing. The case was forwarded to circuit court.

His wife, Tonya Powell, is being sought by police on similar charges.

Around 1 p.m. on Sept. 23, 2006, a blonde described as 5 feet 5 inches and 130 to 140 pounds displayed a handgun in the Waffle House and told the manager, "'I'm not trying to scare anybody but I have a gun and you need to open the register,'" according to court documents.

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The woman got $221.76 from the restaurant's register before she fled to a waiting pickup truck, court documents state.

Witnesses saw a woman matching the description of the Waffle House robber jump into the pickup truck that Powell was driving, according to court documents.

The description of that robber also matched the description of the woman who robbed a Waffle House in Martinsburg earlier that day, Washington County Sheriff's Department Investigator Greg Alton said in court Tuesday.

Witnesses said they remembered Powell as "scruffy looking" and paying for $1.63 worth of gas in change. Powell's lawyer said he had not be trying to hide himself, noting he even paid in coins.

"There is no evidence he was the mastermind in any of this," she said.

During an interview with Martinsburg police in September, Tonya Powell, 23, admitted to robbing both the Waffle House in Martinsburg and the Waffle House in Williamsport, according to charging documents.

A warrant has been issued for her arrest in Washington County.

During a September 2006 search of a vehicle driven by the Powells, Martinsburg police found clothing that matched the description of what the Waffle House robber was wearing and an air pistol resembling a handgun, charging documents state.

Powell's lawyer said Tuesday that the couple is getting a divorce and Henry Powell did not know his wife planned the robbery. Henry Powell also faces charges in West Virginia in connection with the Waffle House robbery in Martinsburg.

The 30-year-old father of three was being held on $400,000 bond.

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