Bank robbery suspects indicted

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 27, 2010

Florala’s alleged bank robbers confessed Thursday they stole their “note-passing” method from television and hit banks along the state line because they didn’t think police could pursue them, Chief Sonny Bedsole said.

Earlier that afternoon, Rhianna Marie Jones and Jerry Tinsley – the two accused of robbing the Florala Wachovia Bank March 1 – were indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday for similar crimes in East Brewton and Flomaton. Nearly simultaneously, Bedsole said he was filing warrants at the Covington County Courthouse for the couple’s alleged Florala crime.

Both Jones and Tinsley each were indicted in Mobile on two counts of bank robbery. If convicted, they face a possible sentence of 10 years for each of the two Class C felony counts.

Bedsole said he remained unsure as to why the Florala robbery was not included in the couple’s federal indictment.

“I’ve gotten no explanation, but I guess it’s because that (area) is what is called the ‘Southern District’ of Alabama, and Florala is located in what is called the ‘Middle District,’” he said. “I wasn’t sure what the feds were going to do. I already had my confessions, so I went ahead (Thursday) and got warrants.”

Bedsole said he interviewed both Jones and Tinsley earlier in the day, who each agreed they were “ready to get things over with.”

“They told me they wanted to plea to it all – Florala, East Brewton and Flomaton – and that they wanted all of the time to run concurrent for the crimes,” he said. “They were very polite and cooperative.”

When asked if the two gave any indication of why they elected to rob the banks, Bedsole said simply, “They needed money.”

“They said they robbed the Florala bank because they ran out of money to support their drug habit,” he said. “They were driving up (U.S. Hwy. 331) and their gas tank was just nearly empty, and they didn’t have money to buy gas. Mr. Tinsley said they saw on TV about passing a note to a bank teller, and that’s how they hatched their plan.

“He said they parked at a local gas station, walked down to a port-a-potty at Lake Jackson and then headed to the bank,” he said. “They went inside took care of business. Walked back down to the port-a-potty, and then back to their car at the station. Then they drove off.”

While inside the bank, a handwritten note demanding money was passed to the teller. In Florala, $1,700 was stolen. Court records show the two are accused of taking $4,963 in cash from the United Bank branch on Sidney Manning Boulevard in Flomaton on March 8 and another $2,480 from the East Brewton branch of BankTrust on March 17.

The couple was taken into custody March 19 after a MySpace tip revealing the couple’s identity and location was given to the Florala Police Department. The two were found inside a Destin, Fla., Motel 6 and taken into custody following a high speed pursuit and foot chase.

Bedsole said “in general terms,” the couple will face a federal court within the next 90 days, and it is unknown how or when the two might return to face their charges in Covington County.