Police: Desperation prompted McDonald bank robbery

April 3, 2014
Richard Allen Watters

McDonald police said desperation prompted a 51-year-old man to rob a bank across the street from the apartment where he lived for just three months so he could get the money he needed to pay his $400 a month rent along with his electric and water bills.

Richard Allen Watters of 103 W. Lincoln Ave. was taken into custody Wednesday morning at that apartment after police received a tip he was the man who robbed the Huntington Bank at 100 W. Lincoln Monday morning. Chief Mark Dorsey said police received a number of tips, including some through their Facebook page, after releasing a surveillance photo of the suspect.

Officer Bradley Resnik, who filed the charges against Watters, said they tracked the suspect down through his driver’s license when they received additional information he had just made a purchase at a local store. When they went to his apartment, Watters confessed.

“He said he had just been evicted from his home where he lived with his parents,” Resnik said. “He was very remorseful and said that he had just taken desperate measures.”

Court documents said when Watters reportedly approached the teller, he handed over a note indicating something to the effect that “I am desperate fill this with cash fast” as he indicated he had a weapon in his waistband. Resnik said Watters was not carrying a weapon.

Watters told police he used the money to pay his bills, Resnik said. Police found receipts for a $400 money order and a paid electric bill.

On the way from McDonald to Monongahela and during his arraignment Wednesday night before District Judge Mark Wilson, Watters told his tale of despair to Officer William Nimal.

Watters told Nimal that he was living in Kansas and was a professor teaching Chinese art at a college in that state when he returned home to take care of his ill parents. Watters’ mother suffered from dementia and passed away. His father died a few years ago.

“He told me that his sister in Texas is the executor of his parents’ estate and told him to get out of the house because she was going to sell it,” Nimal said. “He is on Medicaid with health issues of his own. He tried applying for several jobs but if he made too much money, he’d lose Medicaid.”

“He was basically running on fumes,” Nimal added. “He borrowed what he could from family and friends. He had gone to see an aunt to borrow money the morning of the robbery but she never answered the door.

“He had no gas in the car and $40 to his name. He felt his only options was to get the money somehow or kill himself. He was desperate and so far down and out on his luck. He knew the choice he made was not a good one. But it was do or die and he what he had to do to survive.”

Nimal said Watters never intended to harm anyone.

“He would see elderly women walk by carrying purses but he would never steal from them,” Nimal said. “He just thought the bank could afford it. He wasn’t even aware he had been given $661 in the robbery.”

Nimal said that Watters was not aware of different programs that could have helped him with his living arrangements. He also was caring for four cats.

“He had paid $80 to take a 17-year-old cat to the vet,” Nimal said. “He wanted to have the cat put down but he couldn’t afford it. He wasn’t aware that he could have taken it to a humane society and have it done.”

Nimal described Watters as very cautious and extremely polite.

The robbery Monday was the first time a bank in the borough was held up since August 1977, said Dorsey. It also came on the 22nd anniversary of the March 31, 1992, robbery at the McDonald Pharmacy on Barr Street, in which one of the suspects was shot and killed by Dorsey after he tried to run over him and two North Fayette Township officers in North Fayette.

The Pittsburgh National Bank in McDonald was robbed in 1977 by the notorious Castner brothers, Dorsey said. Larry and Robert Castner were on the lam after escaping from the Washington County jail that February with the help of their brother, John Castner, kidnapping a sheriff’s deputy in the process. The deputy was released unharmed near West Alexander.

Dorsey said the duo was involved in other bank robberies and crimes as far west as Indiana and south as Tennessee.

Watters was arraigned before Wilson on two counts of robbery, simple assault and harassment and one count each of robbery of a financial institution, theft and receiving stolen property. He was placed in Washington County jail on $50,000 bond. A preliminary hearing is set for April 15 before Senior District Judge Jay Dutton.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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