Suspect owed rent before both El Jebel heists
June 26, 2012
EAGLE COUNTY – When Vectra Bank in El Jebel was robbed on both March 2 and Friday, Glenwood Springs resident Jeremy Harmon had bills to pay or risked getting kicked out of his home.
Harmon was under a judge’s order to make a payment to his landlord by 2 p.m. Friday, court records show. Now, Harmon is charged with robbing the bank that morning.
Harmon also had been ordered by Garfield County Judge Paul Metzger to make a payment to his landlord by 2 p.m. on March 2, according to court documents. At approximately 10:30 a.m. on that date, the bank was robbed.
On Monday, an Eagle County judge advised Harmon, 38, that he faces felony charges of robbery and theft stemming from Friday’s incident.
The March 2 case remains under investigation, said Sgt. Stu Curry, of the Basalt Police Department. Curry said it will be up to the Eagle County District Attorney’s Office to decide whether to charge Harmon in the March robbery.
Curry, when asked about Harmon’s eviction case in Garfield County District Court, said, “That’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
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“That’s certainly a coincidence,” Curry said of Harmon’s landlord-payment dates falling on the same days the bank was robbed.
Both the March 2 and Friday robberies have several similarities. In both cases the suspect was wearing dark glasses and a ski mask and left a note with the teller demanding cash. The thief did not produce a weapon or threaten to use one in either robbery. And in both heists, the robber fled on foot.
Harmon, who is married with children, admitted to Curry that he had been having financial problems when police interviewed him Friday, the sergeant said.
And police say that in an interview before he was arrested, Harmon said that he did not bank at Vectra but that he used to have an account at Wells Fargo that was closed last winter because of insufficient funds.
On Feb. 14, Harmon’s landlord, Robert Lee Prince, of Palisade, launched eviction proceedings against Harmon for nonpayment of rent, according to court records in Garfield County. A disposition was reached Feb. 22 in which Harmon agreed to pay three months of rent – $3,600 – by the first Friday in March. The case was dismissed without prejudice -meaning that Prince could bring the case back later.
That’s what Prince did on June 6, when he wrote a letter to the court saying that Harmon and his wife, Belinda, “failed to comply with the payment plan,” according to court records. Prince also contended that Harmon had not paid his June rent, and he would not return the landlord’s phone messages. On June 15, Judge Paul Metzger ordered Harmon to make a $470 to Prince on Friday.
Prince did not respond to a message left on his cell phone Monday.
Meanwhile, Judge Katharine Sullivan set a $10,000 cash surety bond for Harmon, who remained in the custody of Eagle County Jail as of 6 p.m. Monday, as part of an advisement hearing. He is due back in court July 16.
According to an affidavit supporting an arrest warrant, written by Basalt Police Sgt. Penny Paxton, she was standing in the lobby of Alpine Bank, roughly one-half of a mile from Vectra Bank on East Valley Road, when she received a call that Vectra had been robbed.
When Paxton pulled up to Vectra, she saw an employee yell, “We got robbed again!”
The same employee said he tried to follow the suspect through the parking lot, but lost him after that.
Soon after, Paxton encountered another bank employee who was looking for the suspect. The employee said he saw the suspect run across Highway 82 “and did get a good look at the man,” Paxton wrote.
“(The employee) said that the man then got into the truck, and said it had a flatbed, with ladders on the truck. (The employee) said that the man ran across the highway (and when he) went to the white Ford Truck, he stopped at the door and looked as though he was counting the money. He then got into the truck and drove out to El Jebel Rd.,” Paxton wrote.
Paxton aired a vehicle description to law-enforcement agencies up and down the valley, and at 11 a.m. – some 40 minutes after the bank was robbed – an Aspen police officer spotted a truck matching the description, the affidavit says.
At approximately 12:15 p.m., after police apprehended Harmon at Clark’s Market in Aspen for questioning, Harmon told Curry he did not rob the bank and that “I was nowhere near Vectra bank.”
He also told Curry that he had driven from Glenwood Springs to Aspen that morning. Later, police talked to the employee who said he got a good look at Harmon. The employee, when shown Harmon’s photograph, said: “That is the dude … 100 percent,” the affidavit says.
Police let Harmon go after questioning. After a judge signed the arrest warrant, Curry telephoned Harmon about the pending arrest. Harmon turned himself to the Glenwood Springs Police Department on Friday night and was later booked into the Eagle jail.