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Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Bank robbery suspect in court

By Shelley Grieshop
A 32-year-old Marion man who allegedly robbed a St. Marys bank at gunpoint in May is being held on a $1 million bond following his initial appearance in court in Wapakoneta on Wednesday.
Travis Smith pleaded not guilty to nine indictment charges during the arraignment hearing in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court. He is charged with aggravated robbery (a first-degree felony), six counts of kidnapping (a second-degree felony), theft (a fourth-degree felony) and possession of criminal tools (fifth-degree felony).
Smith is represented locally by Auglaize County Public Defender Mark Weller.
The kidnapping charges were issued for each bank employee who was present but left unharmed during the armed robbery May 9 at the Community First Bank & Trust on Celina Road.
Six of the charges include a firearms specification that adds a mandatory three years in prison; Smith can only be sentenced for one of those six specifications.
Smith faces a maximum 631/2 years in prison if convicted on all counts. No other hearings in the case have been set.
Smith was brought to the Auglaize County Courthouse from the Marion County Jail where authorities have been holding him on a $500,000 bond since his capture in that city on May 12 - three days after allegedly robbing the St. Marys bank. A Marion County grand jury indicted Smith in late May on 17 charges relating to seven armed robberies of banks and pharmacies in Marion and Hardin counties.
Smith had been sought by the FBI for a crime spree that began in January 2005.
No customers were inside the St. Marys bank when Smith allegedly walked in, leaped across the counter and demanded cash while brandishing a gun. He reportedly left on foot with an undisclosed amount of money and escaped in a vehicle parked a short distance away.
FBI Agent Paul Pape said good police work by the St. Marys Police Department, which used security camera videotape from a gasoline station/convenience store near the bank, led to Smith's apprehension. The tape clearly identified Smith in the store just minutes before the mid-morning robbery and identified the vehicle he was driving.
In all, Smith is a suspect in the armed robberies of three pharmacies and two banks in Marion County, two banks in Hardin County and the St. Marys bank. He reportedly netted $250,000 from the banks and various prescription drugs from the pharmacies. Some of the cash and a gun were recovered by police when Smith was caught in Marion.
Marion County Prosecutor Jim Slagle said Hardin County prosecutors opted to allow him to prosecute Smith for all the robberies in both counties. In Marion County court, Smith faces seven counts of aggravated robbery, six counts of theft, one count of robbery and three counts of kidnapping. All 17 charges include the same firearm specification handed down in Auglaize County.
Pape told The Daily Standard a federal statute allows the U.S. District Court to prosecute Smith for the bank robberies in all the three counties. However, Marion County did not wish to relinquish their cases, leaving the two remaining counties responsible for their own prosecutions, he explained.
"I believe it would have cost the taxpayers a lot less money if we had handled this in district court but the individual counties have the right to prosecute Smith if that's what they want to do," Pape said.
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