"With no need to spend the $5,000 on his own expert, Rogers got a judge to reduce the bond to $50,000, which meant she could be released with 10 percent cash. That was in June. Miss Vickie returned to work at the cleaners. She was, and is, on medication."http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/columns/bill-mcclellan/article_c2bdf22e-00d0-5a33-91e6-a432b4b56499.html
Angel who robbed bank gets the right sentence
Victoria Edwards is 56, tall and has short-cropped gray hair. She came to a St. Louis County courtroom Friday morning dressed in black to plead guilty to second-degree robbery, a crime punishable from five to 15 years in prison. She was hoping for probation.
In fact, the night before she had prayed for such an outcome. She is a religious woman. A spiritual woman.
"She was an angel. I mean that. If she touched your hand, you felt something."
That's what Donnie Dunn told me last December. We spoke a day or so after Miss Vickie – as she is known – was arrested for bank robbery. Dunn is the manager of Frontenac Cleaners on Clayton Road in Ladue.
Miss Vickie had worked there since relocating to St. Louis after Hurricane Katrina flooded her home in Harvey, a small town near New Orleans. She was an exemplary employee, and her co-workers thought the world of her. On the day I visited last December, they were distraught.
"Miss Vickie was a mother," said Cornelia Reid. "She was a counselor and a healer. She always listened no matter what. She would cry with you. She would cry for you. She is an angel from God."
What caused an angel to rob a bank?
Everybody agreed that she had not been herself for several weeks. The strong woman who had survived a hurricane had come undone. Her house in north St. Louis had been cited by a building inspector. The 1986 Chrysler – Blue is its name – that had carried her and her two grown children and a grandchild to St. Louis had finally broken down.
The weekend before the bank robbery, Miss Vickie had gone to bed and stayed there. Her daughter Patrice had called the dry cleaners. "I don't know what I'm going to do with my mama," she said. Bring her in tomorrow, said Dunn.
Mark Phillips is the owner of the dry cleaners. He called the city inspector, who assured him that none of the violations at the house was serious. Phillips told Miss Vickie, but she didn't seem to understand.
Around noon, Dunn looked out the front window and saw Miss Vickie walking into the Heartland Bank across the street. He figured she was going in to ask for a loan, and his heart sank. It wouldn't go well. Miss Vickie was spiritual, but not sophisticated.
A few minutes later, Reid saw her coming from behind the fire station next to the bank. She started walking down Clayton Road. She was carrying her coat. Reid and Dunn went out to see if she was all right. "I'm walking home," she said. You can't walk all the way, Dunn said. He got his truck, and he and Reid and Miss Vickie started for north St. Louis.
They drove to her house in the 2600 block of Belt Avenue without much talking. When they got there, Dunn said something about wanting to help if he could, and Miss Vickie said that she didn't need any help. "I robbed that bank," she said.
She opened her coat and Dunn saw more cash than he had ever seen. More than $5,000. "Oh, my God, Miss Vickie," cried Reid.
Dunn turned the truck around and headed back toward Ladue. Maybe they could return the money. The dry cleaners does the uniforms for the Ladue police, and Dunn figured that maybe he could talk to somebody.
They were on St. Charles Rock Road when he heard the helicopter. The bank had put a tracking device in with the money. Police cars blocked the road ahead. The three were arrested.
Dunn and Reid were eventually released, and Miss Vickie was charged with first-degree robbery. Bail was set at $100,000 cash.
Prominent defense attorney John Rogers read about the case and offered his legal services free of charge, but he said he would probably need money for an expert witness. He figured the court would appoint an expert to give Miss Vickie a psychiatric exam and he would need his own expert to counter that report. He estimated he would need $5,000.
The people at the dry cleaners raised the money. Workers and customers pitched in. One customer donated $2,500.
The court had psychologist Dr. Michael Armour interview Miss Vickie. His report was favorable to the defense. He wrote that she was suffering from severe depression and was not herself when she robbed the bank.
With no need to spend the $5,000 on his own expert, Rogers got a judge to reduce the bond to $50,000, which meant she could be released with 10 percent cash. That was in June. Miss Vickie returned to work at the cleaners. She was, and is, on medication.
Meanwhile, Rogers negotiated with the prosecuting attorney's office. The assistant handling the case was Patrick Monahan. He agreed to a 10-year sentence with a suspended execution of sentence. In other words, probation.
That is the sentence that Judge James Hartenbach handed down Friday morning.
I thought of what Phillips had told me when we first talked. He said Miss Vickie didn't belong in prison. He suggested a sentence. "Guilty by admission, released by compassion," he said.
By the way, Blue is still on the fritz. Patrice, who works at a Home Depot, takes her mother to work in the morning, and Dunn drives her home. Perhaps that will soon change. Rogers called Dunn and said the court would return the $5,000 that went for bond, and Dunn told him the people who had donated the money had decided it should go to Miss Vickie.
Posted in Bill-mcclellan on Sunday, November 21, 2010 12:00 am Updated: 7:54 pm. | Tags: