Suspect in Jackson bank robbery caught in 4 minutes

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Around 8 a.m. Monday, William Lynn left his home in Jackson, telling his wife he was going out for breakfast.

He was still recuperating from a depression-related hospital stay, but Judy Lynn thought it was a good sign that her husband was ready to get out on his own again. He had been out of the hospital a couple of weeks, after all. She never dreamed her husband might go out and rob a bank. But when he didn't come back, she knew something was wrong.

Nearly an hour later, five police cars darted to Jackson's busiest uptown intersection, the officers armed with pistols and the information that Regions Bank at Main and High streets had been robbed.

At 8:53 a.m., bank employees called in a description of a red Toyota truck and a license plate number. The vehicle had just left the bank.

When the truck approached the four-way stop, one of the officers stopped his police car just inches from the Toyota's rear bumper. Simultaneously, another two or three cars swept in from the south and stopped abruptly around all sides of the small pickup, leaving Lynn no room to escape.

With their guns pointed at the driver, police officers forced him to the rain-soaked concrete and handcuffed Lynn, 57. Four minutes after the robber left the bank, the police had a suspect face down on Main Street. They found $1,801 cash in the truck.

A witness immediately called to the scene identified Lynn as the man who walked into the bank without a mask and demanded cash.

His wife was incredulous when notified.

"He just wasn't thinking straight," Judy Lynn in a telephone interview later in the day. "I don't know what was going on in his head."

She said her husband has attempted suicide several times since suffering a back and rotary cuff injury a year ago that led to his inability to work. He had labored at the dry docks for 32 years.

She said her husband was diagnosed with severe depression.

"He is a great guy," she said in short, heavy breaths over the telephone. "I would've never thought in a million years he would rob a bank. He maybe had a few traffic tickets years ago, but he's no criminal. I'm pretty shook up about it, but I've had a lot of support today."

'The right time for us'

Several factors led to the immediate arrest of the suspect. That he chose a bank just six blocks from the police department was one. And the department already had two vehicles in the area when the 911 call came in.

"It was a Monday morning, and we just happened to have a full squad," said Jackson police chief James Humphreys. "We had full street coverage, we had two detectives in the office. It was the right time for us and the wrong time for him. That's why we were able to saturate the area so quickly."

Police said there were no customers in the bank at the time of the robbery. Douglas Watson, the president of the bank, stood outside the building's locked doors shortly after the robbery, politely turning away customers while waiting for FBI agents to arrive. He said neither he nor any bank employees could comment on the robbery due to corporate policy.

Lt. Rodney Barnes said witnesses reported they believed the robber had a gun because he had his hand in his pocket. Barnes said the suspect did not say he had a gun and did not show any weapon. Officers originally thought they saw a gun in Lynn's vehicle, but once they were able to search the truck they determined the object was a jack behind the seat.

William Lynn has no criminal record, Humphreys said.

Lynn's home in Jackson is well-kept on the outside. A wooden name plate near the house door says "The Lynn's, Bill and Judy." A wrought-iron bench sits under the porch; two pink azaleas decorate the front yard.

Neighbors at a duplex next door and across the street said they did not know the Lynns.

The bank robbery was the third in the region since April 28, when the Bank of America on Kingshighway in Cape Girardeau was robbed. On May 5, a Regions Bank in Sikeston was robbed.

"We have not linked him to the others at this point," said FBI agent Tom Blades.

Humphreys said it appeared that William Lynn acted alone.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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