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Trial begins in bank robbery case

August 05, 2010|By DAN DEARTH

Jurors in the trial of a man accused of helping to rob the M&T Bank at 930 Dual Highway in March were taken Thursday to view the crime scene.

Prosecutors showed the jurors the alleged escape route, which led down a roadway between the M&T and Chevy Chase banks, and ended several hundred feet to the north near a wall behind the Weis market.

It was there on March 8 that authorities arrested Darnell Edward Stewart, 50, of 9207 Eldon Drive in Clinton, Md., and two other men in connection with the robbery.

Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Michael said Thursday during his opening statement in Washington County Circuit Court that he believes Stewart was waiting with the getaway vehicle on Pangborn Boulevard as his brother, Leroy Robinson, and Keith Darnell Wilson robbed the bank at gunpoint.

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"He was the getaway driver," Michael said.

Stewart's attorney, Ross Hecht, argued that Stewart was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Hecht said Stewart was on his way to meet an employer and parked his pickup truck on Pangborn Boulevard behind Weis when Robinson and Wilson approached him on their way to another vehicle.

"It's a terrible, terrible coincidence," Hecht said. "Mr. Stewart had nothing to do with this case."

Hecht labeled Stewart as a family man, saying his client came into a large sum of money just before the robbery and had no motive to get involved.

According to court records, Stewart is charged with 21 counts, including three counts of armed robbery and 10 counts of first-degree assault.

Among the nine witnesses called to testify Thursday were bank employees, customers and a DNA analyst.

For the most part, the employees testified that two men wearing ski masks and parkas entered the bank on the morning of March 8 and herded people inside a small room. During the confusion, a few of the customers were able to slip into a bathroom and call 911.

A bank employee who was on her way to work the day of the robbery testified that she also called 911 after she noticed the two men entering the bank. She said she became suspicious because their coats were too heavy for the weather.

Anthony Bagley, vice president of the M&T Bank on Dual Highway, told the court that one of the robbers pointed a revolver at him.

"They were telling us to 'Get in the vault. Get in the vault,'" he said.

Bagley said the robbers later ordered the people into a small room after realizing the vault was too small. He said he locked the outside doors after the men fled the bank with a few thousand dollars.

Officers caught Stewart and Wilson, 38, of Washington, D.C., on Pangborn Boulevard, which connects to the Weis shopping center parking lot. A parka-style jacket, a loaded handgun and a ski mask were found nearby, police said shortly after the robbery.

Robinson, 59, also of Clinton, ran in a different direction and was captured a short distance away behind Weis.

Police said they found a loaded handgun in the pocket of a parka Robinson left on the ground, plus gloves and a bag used to carry money from the bank.

Several minutes after the arrests, red ink splotches could be seen on the parka and the bag as they lay on a grassy patch behind Weis. Police said the ink was from a dye pack that exploded in the stolen money.

Robinson was sentenced last month to serve 30 years in prison for his part in the crime.

Wilson is charged with 43 counts, including armed robbery and first-degree assault. According to court records, he is scheduled to enter a plea in Washington County Circuit Court on Aug. 10.

Hecht called DNA analyst Teresa Vreeland to the stand to testify that neither Robinson's nor Wilson's DNA was found in Stewart's truck.

Vreeland told the court that their DNA was not present in the truck, but Michael argued that a person doesn't always leave DNA behind, particularly if they are wearing heavy clothing.

"That's correct," Vreeland said.

Michael also said Robinson's and Wilson's DNA would not have been found in Stewart's truck if they drove another car to the crime scene with the intent of using Stewart's truck to escape.

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