Twenty-eight-year-old Damarco Watts was convicted of the crime in Morgan County Court this afternoon. He helped rob the bank with three other people from St. Louis. Testimony provided by bank employees Cheryl Newell, Patty Crews and Brett Brockhouse indicates Watts entered the bank on June 8th of last year asking to use the restroom. He then led Crews to an area in the back of the bank near Brockhouse’s office and held them at gunpoint. Meanwhile, 30-year-old Sterling Martin and 25-year-old Tiffany Oden demanded money from Newell at the front of the bank.
Watts’ attorney, Elliot Turpin, who declined to comment on the case, argued during the trial that Watts was not in on the plan to rob the bank and never demanded money from anyone.
Chris Reif is the Morgan County state’s attorney.
“Their intent was to leave St. Louis and go rob people illegally,” says Reif. “Whether [it’s a] drug dealer or a bank it’s illegal. They had no rhyme or reason to have the weapons. They set off to commit robberies and they did that. They were going into banks. We have video they went into to other banks in Industry and Beardstown, and they were scoping out banks trying to find an appropriate bank to hit. They believed this was one they could hit and get away with.”
Reif says Chapin residents helped to quickly bring the bank robbers to justice.
“We had tips coming in from the 911 line at the Jacksonville Police Department and the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office from citizens who were paying attention in their community,” says Reif. “They noticed something out of the ordinary. They started taking down license plate numbers of cars that didn’t fit and made calls that something wasn’t right. That was a big key in a case such as this because had we not had the heads up who knows if we would have had the opportunity to get officers on the way and eventually apprehend these subjects.”
The defendants were apprehended in Manchester after a high-speed chase down Route 67.
Laura Marks, senior vice president of Jacksonville Savings Bank and Chapin State Bank, says the verdict brings a sense of closure for the bank employees.
“It certainly was a very stressful experience,” says Marks. “We are extremely proud of our employees for the way they performed during the incident and during the six months afterwards. I would also say we are extremely pleased with the professionalism of the state’s attorney’s office, everyone at the courthouse and the law enforcement officers.”
All of the other defendants in the case have pleaded guilty to armed robbery. Martin and Oden have been sentenced to 18 and 12 years in prison, respectively. Twenty-three-year-old Ashly Anderson is awaiting sentencing scheduled for January 29th. Anderson apparently entered the bank first, asked for directions, scoped out the bank and reported back to the other defendants in a getaway car.
Reif says more than $12,000 was taken during the robbery. All of it was recovered.
Sangamon County judge John Madonia presided over the case. A sentencing hearing for Watts was scheduled for March 5th.