Because That's Where The Money Is! Shocking True Crime Stories
Yes, that headline is known as 'Sutton's Law' and is credited to the infamous bank robber Willie Sutton. He robbed his first bank in 1925 and kept going for thirty-three years, stealing an estimated #2 million.
Of course, there was a cost. Willie spent three decades behind bars, six years hiding from the law, and four more years on parole.
Not much of a life.
Willie was asked why he never stopped robbing banks. His answer became legendary, "That's where the money is."
The Willie Suttons of the criminal world are a special breed.
Most, if not all, of my Shocking True Crime Stories involve murders of one kind or another. I also find bank robberies, burglaries, and people like Willie Sutton incredibly fascinating.
Let's get technical, or at least, semantic.
Yes, there is a difference between a "bank robbery" and a "bank burglary." In the former, a gun or other threatening weapon is used. In the latter crime, the "burglars" break into the bank, encounter no opposition, and walk out with the money.
One of the earliest bank burglaries in American history is also one of the most fascinating.
Two men who emigrated to the U.S. from Great Britain a couple of years before the robbery was pulled off had long criminal records in their homeland.
James Honeyman and William J. Murray, described as notorious rogues, became friends while both were being held in England's Botany Bay prison.
Murray was a convicted pickpocket.
Honeyman, who owned a pub where most of his customers were crooks and outlaws, was sentenced to life without parole for a felony conviction.
Murray did his time, and Honeyman managed to escape. Both came to America, where they continued their criminal ways.
Eventually, the pair decided in March 1831 to rob the Phoenix Bank in New York. But alas, using forged keys, Murray got inside the bank twice. The third time when he and Honeyman returned late at night, they spotted a watchman patrolling the financial institution.
So, Honeyman and Murray changed their plan and targeted New York City Bank. This went better. Using keys they made using wax impressions of each keyhole in the bank's doors, Murray and Honeyman got into the bank on a Sunday afternoon before a watchman arrived.
The pair got into the bank's vaults. They took close to 500 doubloons and bank notes valued at about $37,000, according to a report published in the Greenfield Gazette & Franklin Herald, October 18, 1831.
They also emptied the vaults of more than $245,000 in cash.
Then, showing extreme patience, Honeyman and Murray spent the night inside the bank; after the night watchman showed up for work. They managed not to be noticed and slipped out of the bank when the sun rose the following day, wearing large cloaks to hide their loot.
So they got away with it? Well, no.
Neither Honeyman nor Murray had much of a plan for what to do after the burglary.
Mistakes were made, they discovered there really is no honor among thieves, and both were arrested and sentenced to prison.
As for the first bank robbery — in which the criminals used guns — that's the December 15, 1863, robbery of a bank in Malden, Massachusetts.
A seventeen-year-old bank teller was murdered, shot in the head, and the outlaws got away with $5,000 in cash. I'll have more on this story in another newsletter.
Oldest Bank Robber In U.S. History?
Robert Francis Krebs will surely die in prison. That's the way he wants it.
The 82-year-old man, who spent more than 30 years in prison for a 1981 bank robbery in Florida, was sentenced to 25 years behind bars for the January 2018 holdup at an Arizona credit union.
When Krebs held up that bank in Florida all those years ago, he wore a wig, had cotton in his cheeks, and had even varnished his fingers, hoping he wouldn't leave any fingerprints.
But this time, in Arizona, Krebs left the lid on the varnish can. He didn't wear a wig. No attempt at disguise. You see, Robert Francis Krebs didn't care about the money.
Krebs was indeed having trouble making ends meet on his Social Security check.
But, Krebs told the FBI he wanted to get caught because life outside prison has proven to be so difficult. So in a way, he's just going back home.
One more note: Krebs is much older than the average bank robber, who is usually not 30 years of age. But is Robert the oldest to rob a bank in America?
That honor goes to J.L. Hunter Rountree. His friends called him "Red."
Red started robbing banks in his mid-80s because a bank had foreclosed on his business. He pulled off his last bank job nearly ten years later. He was 91.
Red died in prison less than one year later.
Zombie Bank Robber Dies
Then, there is the story of Alan Hurwitz. He wasn't a bad guy. He was passionate about social justice and teaching kids in a Detroit Public Schools classroom.
"I was raised in a liberal Jewish tradition of justice, learning, and equality," Alan told the Detroit Metro Times in 2005.
However, Alan's life changed dramatically in 1992, in kind of a "Breaking Bad" way. He got hooked on crack. To pay for his drug addiction, Alan went on a bank-robbing spree.
The first bank he robbed was in Southfield, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.
"It was four o'clock on a Friday afternoon, and the bank was jammed. I get in this long line and wait and wait," Alan said in that Detroit Metro Times interview. "I finally get to a teller in the middle, and I've got like a four-page robbery note. 'Do this, don't do that.'
"The place is filled with people, and I give the young lady the robbery note. Her eyes get big, and she's reading and reading and reading. I finally say, 'Just give me the money.'"
In just nine weeks, this tiny, quiet guy knocked over 18 banks in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. Every time he walked up to a teller's window, Alan had a blank look as he demanded money. It was a stare that scared people on the other side of the counter.
The way the tellers all described Alan led FBI agents to nickname him "The Zombie Bandit."
He never got busted coming out of a bank. Alan's crime spree ended after people watching "America's Most Wanted" called the T.V. program's tip line to say they'd seen him.
Alan pled guilty to 13 bank robberies and was sentenced to a dozen years in prison.
He was released and moved to Northern California to live with his daughter, Laura. But old habits are hard to break. Alan started robbing banks again. The police caught up with him after his fourth robbery of a California bank.
He drove to Wyoming. Cased a couple of banks there, but the cops caught up with him. Alan was captured in Wyoming, tried in California, and sentenced to 17 1/2 years.
On May 20, 2020, Alan walked out of a federal prison in North Carolina on a compassionate release because of Covid-19. The killer disease was racing through the prison population, taking the lives of guards and prisoners. Officials released as many of Alan's fellow felons as possible. Alan was one of the lucky ones. Almost.
Alan was not tested for the disease, according to his daughter.
His release came too late for Alan. He died of Covid-19 on June 6, in an Orleans, California, hospital.
The New York Times reported Alan Hurwitz, the Zombie Bandit. He was 79.
And now, a story of murder. Or is it?
She Cries Alone
A Shocking True Crime Story
Police called it murder on New York's Hudson River. She said it was a tragic accident. Should her name go down in the annals of America's female murderers, or is she just one more victim of a fractured court system?
Angelika Graswald claims she's not a cold-blooded killer. Still, New York prosecutors say she purposely pulled a plug on her fiance's kayak so he'd drown in the storm-tossed waves of the Hudson River.
She Cries Alone: A Shocking True Crime Story takes you through the day Vincent Viafore died, the afternoon Angelika walked and talked with a New York State Police detective, the eleven-hour police interrogation of this immigrant from Latvia, her disputed confession, and then the behind-the-scenes deal-making that led to her eventual plea bargain and release.
Is she a killer or a victim?