Two men arrested minutes before attempted robbery
November 09, 2011 @ 12:15 AM
LAVALETTE,WV -- Two men were arrested after their plan to rob a Lavalette bank was foiled by Wayne County Sheriff's Deputies and an observant passerby, who reported the pair's suspicious activity Tuesday morning.
James Eric Estep, 22, of Huntington, and Frank Joseph Clair Jolliff, also 22, of Ashland, were arrested and charged with felony bank robbery after a person noticed the pair acting suspicious while they were parked in a lot behind Huntington Bank in Lavalette and a nearby tire shop, according to criminal complaints filed in Wayne County Magistrate Court.
The call came in at 7:24 a.m. Tuesday, minutes before employees were scheduled to arrive and open the bank. A deputy arrived at the lot moments later to find the suspects' vehicle, a blue Jeep Cherokee, and Estep and Jolliff nearby.
The deputy drew a weapon and gave the pair verbal commands to get on the ground. While Jolliff complied, Estep, who was observed wearing a ski mask when the deputy arrived, ran around the other side of the vehicle, where the deputy couldn't see him.
Following a heated exchange, Estep came out from behind the vehicle, without the ski mask, and laid on the ground. The deputy was able to hold the pair at gunpoint until backup units could arrive.
Once the men were in custody, a search of the jeep yielded the ski mask, along with a plastic, but realistic-looking, semi-automatic pistol. When a wrecker service arrived to tow the vehicle, deputies discovered a pellet gun beneath the vehicle.
When questioned, the witness who reported the incident to authorities said he saw Estep and Jolliff pull into the parking lot, where Estep "fumbled around" in the glove compartment for something. He said Estep exited the vehicle and walked between two nearby businesses to observe the bank, and Jolliff backed the vehicle onto the parking lot of Mainstream Services, and he looked into the front door twice.
The witness said he saw one of the men take a plastic bag and cover up the license plate of the Jeep before the deputy arrived.
A background check revealed both men had previously been arrested for armed robbery.
Estep and Jolliff were incarcerated at the Western Regional Jail Monday night. Bond was set at $200,000 for each man.