ATM robbers abduct their sixth victim

February 04, 1994|By Scott Higham and Glenn Small | Scott Higham and Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writers

A gang of ATM robbers was nearly caught early yesterday, as they drove into a Cockeysville shopping center parking lot with a woman they had abducted moments before and spotted a Baltimore County police cruiser.

The robbers sped off. The officer realized the car was stolen and called for help. But by the time more police arrived, they found the 23-year-old woman, Whayoon Kellie Lee, dumped along the side of Padonia Road, crying uncontrollably.

XTC The robbers were gone.

It was the sixth ATM abduction-style robbery in the region since Jan. 25 and the first outside the city.

It also could provide a break in a case that has stumped police, particularly if they can recover the car -- a black, 1991 four-door Acura Legend with Maryland tags, NSP-507. That would allow detectives to comb the car for clues to the identities of the gunmen.

There was another break yesterday: Baltimore robbery detectives said they have their first photograph of a suspect. The picture was snapped Monday at a Maryland National Bank ATM center at North Avenue and Charles Street, 11 minutes after the gang robbed and assaulted a security guard near his Bolton Hill home.

"We believe these are the same guys who robbed the woman in Cockeysville," said Baltimore Police Agent Doug Price, a spokesman for the department, which is investigating five similar robberies in the city.

"This is our first one, and it looks the same," said Sgt. Steve Doarnberger, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department. The latest robbery unfolded as Ms. Lee returned home from her job as an MCI operator in Baltimore County. As she stepped from her car in the 10400 block of Barretts Delight Road in Cockeysville around 12:35 a.m., three men approached her from behind, one of them brandishing a pistol.

They pulled a towel over her head and forced her onto the back floor of the Acura, which was driven by a fourth man, said Cpl. Rick Lisko, a county police officer. They took Ms. Lee's wallet, demanded her automated teller machine code number, and asked her for the location of the nearest cash machine.

They headed to the Cranbrook Shopping Center, about a half-mile away. As they pulled into the parking lot for a stop at the Maryland National Bank ATM, they spotted a county police cruiser. They wheeled the Acura around and took off from the parking lot.

Sensing something suspicious, the officer called in the tag number and discovered that the car had been stolen. He called for help, and Cockeysville patrol officers began searching the area. Within minutes, they found Ms. Lee on the side of Padonia Road, near the Fox Chevrolet Geo dealership, Sergeant Doarnberger said.

Ms. Lee, who was not injured, told police that the men took $100 in cash, her ATM card and credit cards, and a book bag. Police would not say whether any cash was withdrawn from Ms. Lee's bank account.

Police believe that the men who robbed Ms. Lee are responsible for a spate of similar abduction-style robberies in the city.

The similarly staged crimes began with the abduction-robbery of James S. Keat, 64, an editor for the Baltimore Sun. He was outside his Federal Hill home on Jan. 25 when robbers covered his face with cloth, forced him into a waiting car and ordered him to turn over his ATM code number. They withdrew $740 from his account.

On Jan. 28, the robbers abducted Molly Quaid, 23, outside her Bolton Hill home around 3 a.m. They pulled her coat over her head, pushed her into a car and withdrew $400 from her account before releasing her.

On Monday, the robbers struck three times -- within two hours. First, they abducted Jennifer Bohan, 19, a Johns Hopkins University undergraduate, from her home on Charles Street near the Homewood Campus. They pulled a pillowcase over her head and pushed her into a car. They were unable to withdraw any money because her bank account was too low.

At 6 a.m., they tried to abduct Carl Leitch, 34, a Wells Fargo security guard assigned to protect the Baltimore Police headquarters.

He fought off the attackers in front of his Bolton Hill home, but they took his ATM card and code number. A suspect was photographed withdrawing money from his account.

A half-hour later, the robbers struck again. They abducted Cristian Tampe, 24, a Johns Hopkins medical student, in front of his Canterbury Road home. They pulled a pillowcase over his head, forced him into a waiting car, and stole $240 from his account before freeing him.

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