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Tips from the community to local law enforcement resulted in the arrest of a suspect in the Jan. 23 bank robbery of Carrollton’s First National Bank.
The suspect, Cecil Messer, 45, originally of McKenzie, Ala., was apprehended in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Jan. 30, by U.S. Marshals, the Nashville Police Department and Tennessee State Police.
Messer was arrested, charged with first-degree bank robbery, a Class B felony, and held on a $250,000 cash bond in a Nashville jail, Carrollton Police Chief Mike Willhoite said yesterday.
Messer will appear in court there Friday, Feb. 6, for an extradition hearing.
“The people of this community solved this bank robbery,” Willhoite said. “We got a lot of tips that provided information that got an arrest warrant and got him in custody.”
Willhoite said publishing the photos of the alleged robber in local newspapers, including The News-Democrat (Jan. 28, 2009) brought in tips that helped law enforcement identify the man.
Willhoite said calls started coming into the police department and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office as soon as the issue hit newsstands.
Willhoite said Sheriff Ben Smith’s office passed information it received to police; Officer Jamie Kinman began working tips as they came in.
Kinman coordinated efforts with the sheriff as well as the Kentucky State Police, Louisville Metro Police and the U.S. Marshal Service to solve the case, Willhoite said.
“From those tips we were able to develop enough solid information to get an arrest warrant signed by Judge Elizabeth Chandler-Lester, Wednesday Jan. 28,” Willhoite said.
Messer was arrested two days later.
“A representative from the sheriff’s office, CPD or KSP will be responsible to get him [Messer] back here,” Willhoite said.
Suspect may have struck Louisville bank
Willhoite said Messer is a suspect in the Jan. 13 bank robbery at National City Bank in Louisville, Ky., but added that Carrollton will get to prosecute first because he was arrested on a Carroll County warrant.
The felony charge also may be tried in federal court, because First National Bank is a national bank and is regulated under federal banking laws, Willhoite added.
The Carrollton bank robbery occurred about 1:50 p.m. on Jan. 23 when Messer allegedly walked into First National Bank on Highland Avenue and demanded money from a teller.
He escaped on foot and law enforcement officials are trying to create an accurate timeline of events from the time he left the bank until the time he was arrested in Nashville, Willhoite said.
For now, a whiteboard propped up on an easel in the Carrollton police office outlines Messer’s whereabouts, according to investigators. Willhoite said they may need a whole wall for the timeline as information continues to come in.
In the meantime, Willhoite said many details of the robbery and the subsequent arrest have not yet been released as the investigation continues into this case and others Messer may have been involved in.
But what police know for sure is Messer is an iron worker/welder and has been living in Carroll County since February 2008, working at various plants in the area, Willhoite said.
Messer had been unemployed since mid-summer, and he has been staying with an acquaintance on Ninth Street.
Recent arrests made in Carroll County
Messer has a record with a long history of arrests – some in Carroll County prior to the bank robbery. Other arrests had been made in Clarksville, Ind., and Messer’s home state of Alabama.
In November, Messer was arrested in Carroll County by KSP and charged with operating a vehicle with an expired drivers license and failing to register the vehicle. Several days later in December, he was arrested again on the same charges, plus failure to maintain required insurance while driving a vehicle owned by another person.
Messer was scheduled to appear in court the day before the robbery, but the case had been continued to Feb. 19.
When arrested in November, Messer listed his address as U.S. Hwy. 31, McKenzie, Ala.; when arrested the second time, five days later, he gave his address as Ninth Street in Carrollton.
Willhoite, who said he has been asked everywhere he goes about the robbery case, said the case is ongoing, even though an arrest has been made.
He also praised all law enforcement agencies involved in the case, especially his own crew. “I feel very fortunate and very proud about our officers and the work they’ve done here.”
And without the cooperation from the public and the other law enforcement agencies – local, state and federal – Willhoite said solving the case may have taken much longer.