Ugly Bandit Still at Large Today
The Shelby Star
Friday, October 6, 1967 (page A-1)
By Gary Putnam
Star Staff Writer
CLIFFSIDE — No arrests had been made through this morning in connection with Thursday’s early-afternoon robbery of $62,971 from the Haynes Bank.
Special Agent Robert Murphy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Charlotte office this morning would say only, “We can’t release any information at the present but will do so at the earliest moment.”
Murphy’s agents are in charge of the investigation. Local officers in both Carolinas are cooperating.
Rutherford County Sheriff Damon Huskey did reveal that a number of persons already have been questioned and released.
Sheriff Huskey also expressed great confidence in the FBI: “Not many bank robbers get away with robbing a federal bank.”
The sheriff noted too that the FBI made an arrest within less than two months after the Haynes Bank was robbed in 1961. The man convicted of that robbery drew a 15-year prison sentence. He was paroled in 1966. Most of the $9,510 stolen at that time was recovered.`
Thursday’s gunman was described as wearing a long, dark-colored wig which hung to his shoulders, a dark rain coat and dark trousers with “funny-looking shoes.”
An animal-like mask obscured his face.
All portions of his skin were covered obscuring any indication of race.
The bandit—presumably a man—was thought to be white from conclusions of all persons who heard him speak.
Four people, all employees of the bank, were present during the robbery. No one was injured.
Then Haynes Bank, organized in 1907, is the only bank in the mill town of just over 1,000 population. The large amount of money on hand was the result of a Wells Fargo shipment received an hour before the robbery to meet payroll checks from three nearby textile mills.
W. B. Jenkins, vice president and cashier of the bank, said, “It must have been someone who was familiar with the operation of the bank because he hit just after the money was delivered and at lunch time.”
Jenkins was at lunch at a nearby cafe when the robbery occurred. Ironically, a Rutherford County deputy sheriff was also in the cafe for lunch, a half block from the bank.
According to the three women in the bank at the time of the Thursday robbery, the lone intruder spent less than three minutes inside the building, cleaning out three cash drawers and the vault.
Mrs. Dwight (Jane) Hamrick was the only person who spoke to the bandit.
She said, “I looked up and this weird-looking person had just walked in. He was holding a gun at us and handed me a pillow case.
“I knew what he wanted, so I started to clean out my cash drawer.”
The bandit assisted her by coming around behind the chest high counter, into the teller’s cage. He helped Mrs. Hamrick scoop money out of the three cashier drawers.
The gunman issued short guttural commands to the women giving only four orders while in the bank and apparently attempting to disguise his voice.
He grunted “down, down” when the two tellers in the front portion of the bank—Mrs. Jane Hamrick and Mrs. Jerene Landreth—were joined by Mrs. Sandra Howard, who had been working at a posting machine at the rear of the building.
Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Landreth immediately lay face down on the floor, “not knowing what he was going to do to us,” while the armed bandit pointed to the closed vault and said, “vault, vault.”
Mrs. Hamrick at first said that she couldn’t open it but complied when the bandit pointed his gun menacingly at her and repeated the short, harsh command.
After gathering up loose money in the vault, mostly in denominations of 10s, with lesser numbers of ones, fives and 20s, Mrs. Hamrick handed the pillow case—now bulging with bound paper currency—to the bandit.
The thief whirled and was half-way to the door when the chairman of the board, Hollis M. Owens, walked in.
The bandit, reportedly beginning to show signs of nervousness, extended a trembling gun toward the face of Owens and said, “down, down, down.”
Mrs. Hamrick, fearing the the bandit was going to hit Owens on the head, reportedly said, “Lie down, Mr. Owens, please.”
The bandit then spun around and headed out the double doors and almost collided with the only customer on the scene, Roosevelt Hopper, a janitor for the First Baptist Church across the street.
Hopper was startled to see the bandit as he charged out of the bank. But he thought that the whole thing was “a prank. Some sort of Halloween joke.”
Hopper and the women tellers watched as the bandit jumped into an automobile parked in the nearby church parking lot, described as a 1962 or 1963 Chevrolet with S. C. license places.
The car sped off down the small paved roadway beside the church and over the hill to an intersection where the street branches into three directions.
Rutherford County Sheriff Damon Huskey reported that a bystander had sighted the automobile as it turned onto S. C. 221 toward Spartanburg and that a roadblock was called for all roads within 10 minutes after the robbery.
Reprinted with permission from The Shelby Daily Star. Copyright owned by The Shelby Star.
Article provided by Jane Robinson Hamrick