Teen to be tried as adult for assault, robbery

Thursday, October 2, 2003

OId Lorimier Cemetery caretaker Bobby Gene Banfield says he won't go to work alone anymore.

"I'm half afraid to," he said.

When Banfield locked the gates of the cemetery June 8, he became the victim of a violent robbery for the second time while on the job. The 63-year-old was struck twice in the head with a brick and robbed of his wallet.

His suspected assailant, 16-year-old Loevester Hines Jr. of Cape Girardeau was certified to stand trial as an adult Sept. 25 for the first-degree felony charges of robbery and assault.

Hines submitted a written statement to police admitting he had waited on Banfield to lock the gates before hitting him and taking his wallet, according to court documents. Hines is in custody at the county jail on a $50,000 bond and awaits a preliminary hearing Oct. 28.

Cape Girardeau County sees less than a half dozen minors certified to stand trial as adults in a year, said Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle. When it does happen, it's because of the specific circumstances surrounding the crime and the defendant's history.

"The main criteria for certification is the violent nature of the crime," Swingle said. "Or if it's a property type crime, juveniles usually get several chances by the court before they are considered incorrigible. The court then looks at the criminal history the person is developing."

Another factor considered is whether the juvenile justice system has the right resources to deal with a specific kind of defendant, Swingle said.

"For instance, I can't recall a drug case resulting in a certification because the juvenile system has a good drug program that is as good as the adult system," he said.

In Hines' case, Judge Peter Statler ruled the alleged offenses "involved viciousness, force and violence," according to court documents.

The June 8 robbery was all too familiar for Banfield. On July 31, 1997, two masked men cornered the caretaker at the cemetery and demanded his money. The group believed Banfield carried several thousands of dollars in cash.

One of the men, Johnathan Betts, shot Banfield through his left cheek with a .38 caliber revolver after he told them he only had a handful of change. The bullet passed through his head and came out his right cheek.

After the robbers fled, a profusely bleeding Banfield managed to pedal his bicycle a few blocks away on North Fountain where a neighbor contacted police.

Over the next year, Betts and three accomplices were convicted and sentenced. Betts, now 23, was sentenced to eight years for conspiracy to commit robbery and assault. The other three men were charged only with conspiracy. Tyler Baine, now 34, received 20 years in prison; Terry Gerlach, now 26, was sentenced to 15 years; and Ivan Palmer, now 51, was sentenced to 10 years. Betts, Palmer and Gerlach pleaded guilty, but Baine was convicted after a two-day jury trial.

After six years, the shooting is no longer a clear memory for Banfield.

"I can't remember all of it," he said, shaking his head. "Only parts."

mwells@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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