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Mass. man charged with robbery of Brattleboro bank

Police capture suspect quickly; no injuries reported

BRATTLEBORO—A man suspected of robbing the Brattleboro Savings & Loan on Main Street on Nov. 20 walked out carrying $30,000, police said.

His getaway lasted the time it took him to drive from upper Main Street to near the Outlet Center near Exit 1.

Brattleboro Police apprehended David A. Abbott, 69, of Gardner, Mass., on the afternoon of Nov. 20.

Police arranged for Abbott’s black Honda to be towed to the police department and searched for evidence after a warrant was obtained.

Police said Abbott later confessed to Det. Lt. Michael Carrier that he’d robbed BS & L.

“Abbott told me he has been having deep financial difficulties and needs the money to pay bills and to prevent his house from being foreclosed,” Carrier wrote in an affidavit, adding, “Abbott said he had been planning the bank robbery for two weeks.”

None of BS & L’s employees or customers were hurt during the robbery.

BS & L Bank Manager Donna C. Rathbun told Carrier that Abbott introduced himself to her as “Rick Johnson.”

Dressed in what court documents describe as a security guard uniform and ball cap, Abbott waited outside Rathbun’s office under the pretext of wanting to speak about certificates of deposit and savings accounts.

Sitting across the desk from Rathbun, Abbott told a different tale.

According to her statements to Carrier, Rathbun said “he was robbing the bank and that he had a gun.”

“Rathbun said the suspect told her he was serious and asked her if she wanted to see [his] gun and then patted his coat pocket with his hand,” Carrier wrote.

According to court documents, Abbott added that he’d been watching Rathbun while planning the robbery. He told her that an accomplice — who did not exist — who would go to Rathbun’s house if anyone called the police.

Under Abbott’s direction, Rathbun escorted the suspect to the bank vault, Carrier wrote. She told Abbott she needed her supervisor because the bank had a two-key system.

On her way to the vault, Rathbun saw her supervisor, Theresa S. Maseillo, and told her they were being robbed.

Rathbun and Maseillo with Abbott walking behind them entered the vault, Carrier wrote. A teller inside was storing a fresh shipment of cash.

According to Carrier, Rathbun told him that she asked the teller to leave and whispered to the teller to activate the alarm.

The two women loaded a duffel bag provided by Abbott with $30,000 in cash.

Abbott then left, Carrier wrote.

Outside, Officer Michael Cable, who was responding to the bank’s alarm, spotted a security guard walking away from BS & L.

“Officer Cable attempted to make contact with the security guard to gather information regarding the alarm,” Carrier wrote.

As the security guard drove away in his Honda with Massachusetts plates, Cable called in a description.

According to Carrier, Lt. Robert Kirkpatrick spotted the Honda on Elliot Street. He caught up with the car near Hospital Hill then stopped the car on Canal Street near Exit 1.

Carrier noted that Kirkpatrick waited for additional law enforcement before taking Abbott into custody.

Abbott later told police he did not have a gun. He threatened Rathbun with harming her family “because he wanted her to take him seriously,” Carrier wrote.

According to Carrier’s description of Abbott’s confession and items found in the car, Abbott hadn’t had time to cover his license plates with two paper license plates. He had also brought a roll of tinfoil to cover the duffel bag to mask any tracking devices the bank employees may have put in with the money.

The car Abbott drove belongs to his daughter, Carrier wrote.

Bank surveillance photos of the robbery appear to show Abbott, police said.

Honorable Judge David Suntag ordered Abbott held on $250,000 bail.

Abbott was arraigned on Nov. 21 in Windham Superior Court in Brattleboro on one count of assault and robbery and one count of grand larceny.

The BS & L main branch was closed for the rest of the day.

Standing outside the main doors to the bank Nov. 21, Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald praised the bank employees’ response to the robbery.

“What they did made our job so much easier,” he said.

Fitzgerald said the employees remained calm, stayed safe, and relayed accurate and crucial information to police that helped them narrow the field of suspects.

Based on the information Fitzgerald had seen, Abbott did not seem to have much of a police record.

“They all have their reasons,” Fitzgerald said of people breaking the law. “Hindsight is always 20/20.”

BS & L President Dan Yates said that everyone at the bank receives training annually in how to respond to a bank robbery.

“Staff did exactly what the training told them to do,” he said.

He spoke highly of employees’ calm reactions and said that BS & L has offered EAP support to any employees who may want counseling. Fitzgerald and the state’s attorney’s office had also called Yates and offered similar support.

Banks don’t keep much cash in their vaults, Yates said. It’s an asset that doesn’t generate much money sitting in a box.

The bank’s and customers’ accounts are insured in the event of a robbery, he said.

“I don’t care about the money,” Yates said. “All I care about is that my employees are safe. Cash is replaceable.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #282 (Wednesday, November 26, 2014). This story appeared on page A3.

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