Chesterton Tribune

Four charged in connection with fatal botched robbery of Pines bank

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[Story Below]

 

Left: O’Dell Corley: Investigators say that O’Dell Corley, 37, of Michigan City, shot bank guard Keith Hill and tellers Kay Peckat and Chandler Simpson. Peckat died at the scene.

 

 

Edward Johnson: Investigators say that Edward Johnson, 30, of Rochester, Ind., entered the bank after Corley and that he removed the gun from bank guard Keith Hill’s holster. (Photos provided)

 

 

 

 

The photograph and the composite: Investigators say that Jeana Ramsey, 30 (left), of Rochester, Ind., is the woman pictured in the composite drawing (right) released on the night of Aug. 27. That drawing is based on the description of a witness who saw a woman in the vicinity of a burned-out car which was found on Ardendale Road minutes after the robbery attempt and which investigators now say was the getaway car. Less than 36 hours after the robbery attempt, investigators say, someone called the Michigan City Police Department and identified the woman in the composite as Ramsey.

By KEVIN NEVERS

Law-enforcement officials are citing interagency cooperation and public-spiritedness for the arrest of four persons Tuesday in connection with the fatal botched robbery Aug. 27 of the Pines branch of the First State Bank of Porter.

The break in the case came less than 36 hours after two men entered the bank around 11 a.m., shot three employees, one of them fatally, then fled without a dime: a tip to the identity of a woman featured in a widely-distributed composite drawing, based on the description of a witness who saw her in the vicinity of a burned-out car found less than a mile from the bank on Ardendale Road and only minutes after the robbery.

Being held on federal charges of aggravated robbery and murder are O’Dell Corley, aka Nasih K. Raid, 37, of Michigan City; Edward Johnson, 30, of Rochester, Ind.; and Andre “Pee Wee” McGregor, 28, of Michigan City. Being held on a federal charge of aggravated robbery is Jeana Ramsey, 30, of Rochester, whom officials identified as the woman in the composite.

At a press conference Tuesday night at the Michigan City Police Department—where, in the hours after the robbery, investigators from the FBI, the Indiana State Police, and the Porter County Sheriff’s Police established their joint headquarters—U.S. Attorney Joe Van Bokkelen laid out the allegations contained in the federal complaint filed against the four suspects.

Sometime on the morning of Aug. 27, he said, Ramsey and Johnson—who lived together in Rochester—met Corley and McGregor in Michigan City, and together they “obtained” a tan 1988 Dodge. McGregor then drove Corley and Johnson to the bank, Van Bokkelen said, where Corley entered the bank and “immediately shot” the guard, Keith Hill, 38, of Valparaiso, and then shot tellers Kay Peckat, 51, of The Pines, and Chandler Simpson, 59, also of The Pines.

Peckat was pronounced dead at the scene. Hill and Simpson remain hospitalized.

Meanwhile, Van Bokkelen said, Johnson had entered the bank, saw Hill wounded in front of the door, removed Hill’s gun from the holster, and “left it in the bank.” Corley and Johnson then fled the scene in the Dodge driven by McGregor, rendezvoused with Ramsey on Ardendale Road, set fire to the Dodge, and left in a second vehicle driven by Ramsey.

On the night of Aug. 27, less than 12 hours after the robbery attempt, investigators released to the media a composite drawing of a woman seen on Ardendale Road prior to the getaway car’s being set aflame. On the morning of Aug. 29, less than 36 hours after the robbery attempt, the MCPD received a call from a tipster, Van Bokkelen said, who specifically identified the woman in the composite as Ramsey and added one other piece of information: Ramsey lives with a “large black man.” Johnson, as the tape shot by the bank’s surveillance camera reveals clearly enough, is a heavy-set black man.

By the early afternoon of Aug. 29, Capt. Mike Jenkins of the PCSP told the Chesterton Tribune, Ramsey and Johnson were under surveillance by investigators and that surveillance continued until Tuesday morning, when they were taken into custody a “short distance” from their home in Rochester.

Corley and McGregor were taken into custody in Michigan City, Corley after a traffic stop, McGregor at his residence.

All were apprehended without incident, although SWAT units from the FBI, ISP, and PCSP had been placed on stand-by, Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds said. Ramsey and Johnson had their initial appearance in federal court Tuesday in Hammond. Corley and McGregor were scheduled to have their initial appearance today.

Although the four suspects are currently facing federal charges, Van Bokkelen told the Tribune that no final decision has yet been made on whether to pursue those federal charges or else to try the suspects instead on state charges. “Our next step is to talk with (Porter County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Douglas) and see where we are,” he said.

The Investigation

“This case is the result of putting a lot of pieces together,” said Ted Wasky, assistant special agent in charge of Indiana office of the FBI. “The first piece was the burned car.

In fact, investigators are still putting pieces together, although officials declined to say whether anyone else might be charged in connection with the robbery attempt. “We will continue to aggressively investigate this matter,” Wasky said.

One of the matters still under investigation is the identity of the owner of the Dodge getaway car, which Wasky said did not belong to any of the four suspects but was never “to his knowledge” reported stolen.

Investigators did not say whether a gun was recovered from any of the four but Wasky did say that search warrants have been executed. Nor did they say whether any of the four has admitted involvement in the robbery attempt.

So far investigators are merely describing the four suspects as “associates,” although they are trying to define that relationship and the Michigan City-Rochester connection more clearly. Reynolds did say that Corley was previously convicted on a drug-dealing charge and Johnson on a robbery charge and that an additional charge may be filed against Johnson in connection with the armed robbery July 27 of a Pizza Hut in Rochester.

Other questions whose answers, investigators said, are “pending”: Was the robbery attempt drug-related? Why was the Pines branch of the First State Bank of Porter targeted? Why was the getaway car torched? Most important, why would Corley “immediately” shoot Hill and then the tellers—as investigators say that he did—and was it part of the plan to enter the bank gun blazing?

Officials agree, however. It was “a very, very horrific crime,” as Van Bokkelen called it.

“It’s probably the most brutal crime I’ve ever seen committed as a police officer,” Lt. Tim Collins of the ISP said.

“It sent shock waves throughout our communities and banking institutions,” Reynolds added.

Officials also agree that the rapidity with which the case was broken is due, as Collins said, to the “collective efforts” and “hundreds if not thousands of manhours” put in by investigators from a host of agencies: the FBI, the ISP, the PCSP, the MCPD, the Rochester Police Department, the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Police, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Police, and the ATF.

“It’s one example of what law enforcement can do when people work together,” Reynolds said.

Officials were unanimous as well in praising the public for its help. “Good public and police cooperation is what broke this crime,” Wasky said.

 

Posted 9/4/2002