Two charged in connection with Dairy Queen attempted robbery

November 27, 2012
Southwest Regional police officers escort James “Paco” Benitto and Michelle Muller to be arraigned attempted in connection with a robbery at the Dairy Queen in Finleyville. - Terri Johnson / The Almanac

A Finleyville couple were arrested Tuesday for the attempted robbery of the Dairy Queen at 6180 Route 88, Union Township, Saturday night.

James “Paco” Benitto, 28, was charged with attempted robbery, aggravated assault, terroristic threats, reckless endangerment, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of weapons. A switchblade, syringes and suspected heroin were found in the couple’s residence during the execution of a search warrant.

Southwest Regional Police claim Benitto’s live-in girlfriend, Michelle Muller, who was an employee of the Dairy Queen, drove him to the ice cream store and picked him up shortly after the robbery attempt at 7:47 p.m.

Both live at 24 Circle Drive, Finleyville, and were arraigned shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday by District Judge James Ellis.

Benitto was placed in the Washington County jail on $250,000 bond. Muller was charged with criminal conspiracy to commit robbery and was released on her own recognizance. Both will have preliminary hearings at 1:45 p.m. Dec. 4.

Police said Benitto entered the Dairy Queen wearing a black ski mask with glasses or goggles under the mask, and demanded money.

Benitto is under house arrest in Washington County for what he told Ellis are traffic violations. His county probation officer said the ankle monitoring system “pinged” when Benitto left his house during the time of the robbery.

The couple lives about a quarter-mile from the Dairy Queen. A witness said Benitto was observed pulling up to his residence at 8:15 p.m. the night of the robbery. Benitto is known to walk with a limp from an injured hip, and survellience shows the attempted robber walked with a similar limp.

When Ellis asked if Benitto was employed, he said he used to be at Frank’s Pub in Bethel Park, but did not indicate that he was employed at the time of the robbery.

When Ellis asked Muller if she was employed, she said, “I was working at the Dairy Queen, but I guess I’m not now.”

Police said Jim Olah, owner of the Dairy Queen, said Muller was employed at the store quit unexpectedly and went home shortly before the robbery.



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