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W E B Griffith

The investigators

ONE

A nearly new, but quite dirty, antenna-festooned Buick pulled into the employee parking lot of the Philadelphia Bulletin and into a parking space bearing a sign reading RESERVED MR. O'HARA.

Mr. Michael J. O'Hara, a wiry, curly haired man in his late thirties, wearing gray flannel trousers, loafers, a white shirt with the collar unbuttoned and the tie pulled down, and a plaid sports coat that only with great kindness could be called "a little loud," got quickly out of the car, slammed the door, and entered the building.

He took the elevator to the third floor, where it deposited him in the city room. He walked quickly across the room crowded with desks holding computer terminals, filing cabinets, and the other impedimenta of the journalist's profession to a glass-walled office, the door of which also bore his name. He went inside, opened a small refrigerator, and took out a bottle of Coca-Cola.

Then he sat down at his desk, punched the computer keys that would inform him of messages received in his absence, found nothing that could not wait, and took a swallow of his Coke.

An assistant city editor-Seymour Schwartz, a skinny, bespectacled forty-year-old whom Mickey regarded as about second among equals of the assistant city editors-appeared at his door.

"You got anything for me, Mickey?" Sy asked.

"Genius cannot be rushed," Mickey said. "I thought I already told you that."

"We go to bed in about fifteen minutes."

"Hold me a large chunk of page one," Mickey said. "Journalistic history will be made in the next five minutes. Presuming, of course, that you leave me alone."

Sy Schwartz threw up both hands in a gesture of surrender and walked away.

He both liked and admired Mickey O'Hara, who had not only won the Pulitzer Prize for his crime reporting, but was regarded-by his peers, including Sy Schwartz, not only by the sometimes politically motivated Pulitzer Prize committee-as just about the best police reporter between Boston and Washington. But as long as he had known O'Hara and worked with him, as many elbows as they had rubbed together, he never knew when Mickey was being serious or pulling his chain.

He did know him well enough, however, to know that when Mickey said he wanted to be left alone, the thing to do was leave him alone. He went back to his desk to wait for whatever Mickey was about to send him.

O'Hara looked at the blank computer screen, wiggled his fingers, reached for the Coke bottle, and took another swallow. Then he locked his fingers together, wiggled them, and, without looking, reached into a desk drawer and came out with a long thin cigar. He bit the end off, spit the end out, and then very thoughtfully and carefully lit it.

He put it in one corner of his mouth, flexed his fingers a final time, and began to tap the keys. Very rapidly. And once he had begun to write, he did not stop. The words appeared on the computer screen.

Slug: (O'Hara) "Really Ugly" Woman Robs

Bucks County Bank by Michael J. O'Hara

Bulletin Staff Writer

Riegelsville, Bucks County-A bandit described as "a really ugly white woman with hairy legs" robbed the Riegelsville branch of Philadelphia's Girard Savings Bank of more than $25,000 shortly after the bank opened this morning.

FBI agents and State Police swarmed over this small village on the banks of the Delaware to assist Riegelsville's one-man police force-part-time Constable Karl Werner-in solving the crime.

According to P. Stanley Dailey, 28, of Riegelsville, assistant manager of the bank and the only witness, the bandit, wielding a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun, took him by surprise as he was entering the bank by the rear entrance shortly after 8 a.m.

"She waited until I had unlocked the door, and had turned off the alarm, and then put her shotgun in my ear," Dailey, still visibly shaken hours after the robbery, told this reporter.

The bandit then took him, Dailey said, into the rear of the bank, where she ordered him to lie on his stomach on the floor of the employees' rest room, and then bound and gagged him with air-conditioning duct tape.

It was while he was being bound, Dailey reported, that he noticed that beneath her black patterned stockings, the robber's legs were unshaven. She was dressed, he said, in a blue and white polka-dot dress, over which she wore a tan raincoat. Her hair was covered with a scarf, and she was wearing heart-shaped glasses, decorated with sequins.

The robber then proceeded to the public area of the small bank, Dailey believes, and waited for the automatic timing device of the bank's vault, set to open at 8:15, to function.

She then helped herself to "the loose cash"-that is, currency involved in the previous day's business, which had been placed in the vault in cash drawers at the close of the previous day. She apparently made no attempt to force her way into any of the vault's locked interior compartments.

The robber then left the bank building by the rear door, locking it after herself. Mr. Dailey's keys were later found by the FBI in the parking lot.

At 8:25 a.m. the branch bank's manager, Mrs. Jean-Ellen Dowd, 42, of Upper Black Eddy, arrived at the bank.

"I knew something was wrong the minute I found the door locked," Mrs. Dowd told authorities and this reporter, "because Stanley [Mr. Dailey] is as reliable as a Swiss watch. But I thought he had a flat tire or something. I never dreamed it was something like this."

She entered the building and found Mr. Dailey in the rest room. Once she had taken the duct tape from his mouth, and he told her what had happened, she activated the alarm. The sound of the alarm was heard by Constable Werner at his full-time place of employment, the Riegelsville plant of the Corrugated Paper Corporation of Pennsylvania, where he is a pulper technician.

He rushed from the plant in his personal vehicle, a pickup truck, which is equipped with a siren and a red flashing light. En route to the scene of the crime, he collided with a Ford sedan driven by Mr. James J. Penter, manager of the Corrugated Paper Corporation's Riegelsville facility, who was on his way to work.

Neither Constable Werner nor Mr. Penter was injured in the collision, but Constable Werner's pickup truck was rendered hors de combat. Mr. Penter then drove Constable Werner to the scene of the crime, where, after questioning Mr. Dailey, he notified the State Police, who in turn notified the FBI.

State Trooper Daniel M. Tobias of the Bethlehem Barracks was first to arrive at the scene. After obtaining from Mr. Dailey a more complete description of the robber as a female approximately five feet eight inches tall, approximately thirty years of age, with large, dangling earrings and an unusually thick application of lipstick and cheek rouge, Trooper Tobias put out a radio bulletin calling for the apprehension of anyone meeting that description and then secured the crime scene pending the arrival of other law enforcement officials.

The Philadelphia office of the FBI dispatched a team of four special agents under the command of Assistant Special Agent in Charge (Criminal Affairs) Frank F. Young.

After questioning Mr. Dailey and Constable Werner, Mr. Young spoke with the press regarding the crime.

"The FBI regards bank robberies as a very serious matter," Young said, "and can point with pride to its record of bringing the perpetrators to justice. I have no doubt that when the FBI has had time to fully apply its assets, this crime will be solved."

Mr. Young, when asked by this reporter if a shotgun-wielding female with unshaven legs, dangling earrings, and an unusually thick application of lipstick and cheek rouge had been involved in other bank robberies, declined to answer.

He also declined to offer an opinion about when an arrest could be expected, and when asked by a reporter from the Easton Express to identify the FBI agents with him, stated that it was FBI policy not to do so.

The FBI agents with Mr. Young were known to this reporter as John D. Matthews, Lamar F. Greene, and Paul C. Lomar.

     

 

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