Navy veteran gets 15 years for bank robbery spree
Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch
CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- A Navy veteran who claimed that severe depression over her mother's death caused her to smoke crack cocaine and turn to crime was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison for robbing four Virginia banks, one with a gun and another with a fake bomb.
“When I lost my mom, I lost my life,” Touwana L. Tate-Edwards, a 49-year-old grandmother who struggled to raise two children of her own with her mother’s help, told Chesterfield Circuit Court Judge Frederick G. Rockwell III.
In urging leniency, defense attorney James T. Maloney noted that Tate-Edwards had suffered “extraordinary loss in her life” and significant depression from a host of events that included being sexually abused by a relative at age 12 and having her first child at 14. She also lost her fiancée in an auto accident, became addicted to drugs in the 1990s and, as a final blow, saw her mother die from cancer in 2012.
Supporters who wrote letters to the court said Tate-Edwards’ bank robbery spree in summer 2012 was “so far outside her character” and that she had served as a family role model. Tate-Edwards’ mother helped raise her children during a seven-year stint in the military.
But Rockwell noted that “we are judged by our last worst act,” and depression stemming from life’s hard knocks is not an excuse to commit crime. “This is a pretty serious thing,” the judge said of the robberies, which emotionally traumatized some of the tellers.
He sentenced her to 48 years in prison with all but 15 years suspended. The active time she received is in the mid-range of state sentencing guidelines, which called for a punishment of between 19 and 12 years.
Chesterfield prosecutor Kenneth Chitty said Tate-Edwards placed everyone at risk when she robbed the banks and threatened violence, in one case passing a note that said, “There is a gun pointed at you right now. Give me the money or you’ll be shot.”
One teller reported seeing a silver revolver sticking out of Tate-Edwards’ purse.
In the last holdup on Sept. 7, 2012, Tate-Edwards told a teller she had a bomb and placed a silver gift box with a wire attached on the front counter. Authorities were forced to evacuate the Virginia Credit Union at 13025 Jefferson Davis Highway and call the Virginia State Police bomb squad to examine the package for explosives. None was found.
In total, Tate-Edwards collected $8,685, spending it on drugs, daily expenses and “taking her grandchildren to Chicago,” she told police. She was ordered Tuesday to make restitution for the full amount, paying at least $200 a month after she’s released.
In addition to the Virginia Credit Union, Tate-Edwards robbed the Wells Fargo Bank at 4400 W. Hundred Road on July 12, 2012; the Bank of Southside Virginia at 4310 W. Hundred Road on Aug. 6, 2012; and Virginia Commonwealth Bank at 4600 West Hundred Road on Aug. 13. She would disguise her appearance by wearing short wigs.
Luck played a role in her arrest.
Twelve days after the last robbery, Chesterfield detectives who were canvassing her neighborhood for leads in unrelated street robbery on Evelyn Drive randomly knocked on her door. When she answered, they realized she generally fit the description of a woman whose image was captured on surveillance cameras during the four holdups.
In talking with her, the detectives determined she was wanted on an unrelated larceny charge, so they brought her to police headquarters for questioning. During the interrogation, she admitted committing the bank robberies.
She acted as though a great weight had been lifted and made a full and complete confession, the detectives said.