Red bills prompt reports to police

June 19, 2013
Several stores in the Washington area thought they received bills colored by red dye following last weekend’s deadly bank robbery at Giant Eagle in Strabane Square. They included these bills used at the Uni-Mart on East Maiden Street in Washington Wednesday. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Local law enforcement officers are receiving numerous calls from store clerks and others noticing red marks on their paper money after Sunday’s deadly bank robbery.

Believing the money could have come from an exploding dye pack from the robbery at Citizens Bank inside the Giant Eagle in South Strabane Township, during which a man chasing the robber was shot and killed, people are reporting finding the bills to local police departments.

However, police have not been able to confirm any of the money was stolen in the robbery.

A man wearing a straw hat and carrying an umbrella robbed the bank about 2:30 p.m. and ran out the back of the store. A number of people followed him, including Vince Kelley, who was shot multiple times after jumping into the back seat of the getaway car. Kelley died of his wounds. Witnesses saw a red dye pack in one of the bank bags explode as the robber fled in a four-door white car toward Route 19 and Interstate 70.

“We’re getting bombarded,” South Strabane Township Detective Ken Torboli said Wednesday of the calls about the bill marks. Police were being called to a number of businesses in Washington and surronding townships, with some calls coming from West Virginia and Pittsburgh.

“Everyone wants to help out,” Torboli said, but added that, “it isn’t anything we can confirm.”

Washington police Chief Chris Luppino said his department, too, has received several calls but so far poilce believe the red imperfections are marks that have come from the printing process or automated teller machines.

“We don’t want to discourage people, but everything, so far, is not from the dye pack,” he said.

Torboli said money in a bag with an exploding dye pack would likely be unusable. Not only would it be covered in red dye, most of the bills would have burn marks on them.

“We’d expect it would almost be unusable,” he said.

However, police don’t want to discourage the public from being alert and helping to bring the murderer to justice.

South Strabane police plan to hold a news conference Friday morning on the investigation. Torboli said some surveillance photographs of the suspect are being enhanced and they want to disseminate the information to the media.

“Everybody’s on board and trying to help us out with this investigation,” he said.

Funeral services for Kelley will be held today at 11 a.m. in Piatt and Barnhill Funeral home in Washington with burial in Forest Lawn Gardens in McMurray. Kelley was a motorcycle enthusiast and member of the Brothers of the Hammer motorcycle club. A friend will ride Kelley’s motorcycle in the funeral procession.



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