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Bank manager kidnapped with her children in robbery, prosecutors allege

Bank manager kidnapped with her children in robbery, prosecutors allege

Police at Wells Fargo bank robbery Racine

A police squad car sits outside the Wells Fargo Bank, 1700 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Racine, on June 29 as officers investigate a robbery report.

KENOSHA — A Kenosha woman and her two young children were kidnapped and held overnight in a Milwaukee basement as part of a plot to rob the bank the woman managed, according to criminal charges.

The woman, branch manager of Wells Fargo Bank, 1700 Martin Luther King Drive in Racine, was followed home when she left work on June 28, then kidnapped at gunpoint along with her daughters, aged 2 and 5. The suspects brought the group back to Milwaukee and held them there overnight.

Early the following morning, the kidnappers forced the woman to open the Racine bank, where they took cash and fled.

Four people were charged July 11 in the kidnapping and robbery. They face as much as 230 years in prison for the charges. All four defendants — two of them high school students, according to statements in court — are Milwaukee residents.

“Reading through the complaint, what struck me was that this was a carefully planned out crime,” said Racine Court Commissioner John Bjelajac in setting the bond.

William Howell, 19, was charged with armed robbery with threat of force, three counts of kidnapping, robbery of a financial institution and an arson charge related to allegedly setting the bank manager’s car on fire in Milwaukee after the robbery.

Donterious Robb, 23, faces the same charges, as does George Pearson-Robb, 19.

Bond was set at $1.5 million for Pearson-Robb and Robb. Howell’s bond was set at $2 million because he has a past felony conviction, increasing the amount of time he faces in prison if convicted.

The three men, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Coaty said, face between 200 and 230 years of prison time if convicted on all charges.

Lamarra Powell, 18, is charged with three counts of kidnapping and robbery of a financial institution as party to a crime.

“We believe Ms. Powell is less culpable” than the other defendants, Coaty said, in asking for $1 million bond.

In setting Powell’s bond, Bjelajac said that, according to the allegations in the criminal complaint, Powell “was aware and even participated in keeping the victims in the basement in Milwaukee.”

According to the criminal complaint, the bank manager left the bank on June 28 at closing time and drove to Kenosha to pick up her daughters, then drove with the children to her apartment in Kenosha.

As she took her children out of the car, two armed men stepped out. One of the men pointed a gun at her and forced her and the children into the back seat of her own car. She told police the man pointed a gun at her as the second man drove her car to Milwaukee.

In Milwaukee, the woman and her children were taken to the basement of a home. The two men told her that “they needed her to gain entry into the bank and specifically the bank’s vault.” The woman said she and the children were given a bucket to use as a toilet and that at some point her captors brought McDonald’s Happy Meals for the children, along with blankets and cushions.

During the time she was held by the men, the woman said her phone and wallet were taken, and they demanded the pass code for her phone and the PIN number for her debit card. At some point during the night, a woman in a mask had come into the basement “but hung back in the shadows.”

At 5 a.m. on June 29, the victim told police one of her captors put an article of clothing over her head and put her and her children back in her vehicle. Three men accompanied her to the bank and forced her to open the bank and the vault where the men emptied five teller drawers into nylon bags. They then left the woman and her children in the bank. She entered the bank’s distress code into the alarm system, then ran outside to ask a person outside using an ATM to call police.

At 7:30 a.m. the woman’s car was found on fire in Milwaukee.

Racine police used security video from businesses along the route that the woman traveled on the day she was kidnapped to identify the vehicle that followed her, an Acura MDX. The Acura was registered to a woman who is in a relationship with Donterious Robb.

Police served a search warrant July 8 on the suspects’ home in Milwaukee. In the home shared by Pearson-Robb, Robb and Powell, police allegedly found the Kenosha woman’s driver’s license, four fake guns that appeared to be 9mm handguns, clothing that appeared to match that of the suspects seen in security video during the robbery and $3,900 in cash. They also found a bucket containing body fluids in the basement, along with the remains of Happy Meals.

According to the complaint, Robb admitted to investigators that he, Pearson-Robb and Howell had started discussing the plan to rob the bank two weeks before.

“He acknowledged that he felt bad about kidnapping (the woman) because her children were with her, and that he spent time talking to her in the basement,” the complaint states.

The four defendants are scheduled to return to court July 18 for preliminary hearings.

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