Thursday, June 15, 2006 Print This | Email This     

Police arrest single mother in string of unarmed bank robberies By Caitlin Ginley, Court TV

(Court TV) — Police say the culprit behind a string of bank robberies last month in Michigan and Indiana was a single mother with a factory job and two teenagers at home.

Kelly Jo Chaney, 40, of Elkhart, Ind., was arrested last week for three robberies at two banks. Police say her four-week crime spree, which began with the May 10 robbery of the Lake City Bank, netted her several thousands of dollars in cash. She was unarmed during all three robberies.

Detectives claim that Chaney, who has an 18-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter, robbed the Farmers State Bank in Sturgis, Mich., on May 24, and then returned less than two weeks later to rob it again. But targeting the same bank twice proved to be her downfall, according to police.

A Farmers State bank teller witnessed both robberies and realized that the robber was the same woman, according to Detective Sgt. Luis Rosado of the Sturgis Police Department. In addition, security captured the robbery.

"The bank teller jumped up to take a look, and said it was the same woman, same vehicle," he said.

Joe Pierce, president of Farmers State Bank, said he was surprised Chaney came back on June 5 to rob his bank again.

"Perhaps she thought we wouldn't be expecting that — which we didn't," he said.

Prosecutor Doug Fisher offered an explanation as to why someone would return to the scene of the crime.

"I suppose because she was so successful the first time," he said.

Showing no weapon, Chaney simply demanded money from the teller and told customers and bank employees, "Please get on the ground. I don't want to hurt anyone."

After the June 5 robbery, a LaGrange County sheriff's deputy stopped Chaney's car because it matched the same vehicle seen on a surveillance camera from the first robbery. With comprehensive media coverage, police had received dozens of tips from the public. Rosado said a few tips supported their theory that Chaney committed the crime.

Rosado said they asked Chaney to come to the police department to be interviewed, where she was "very cooperative." After the interview and searching her house with a warrant, Chaney was arrested on June 7, two days after her last robbery.

If convicted, Chaney will most likely receive a moderate term of incarceration from about 2 1/2 to 5 years, according to Fisher. Her status as a single mother, he said, will not get her a more lenient punishment.

Chaney, who worked in a manufacturing plant in Indiana, was fired from her job last week after employers confirmed with police she was arrested for robbery.

She is being held at the St. Joseph's County jail in Michigan, where she awaits arraignment.

Attorney Kevin Kleidon has been appointed to defend Chaney, but was unavailable for comment. No date has been set for her trial.