Hocking Valley Bank Robbery Suspect Appears in Court

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The man accused of robbing a local bank on Monday morning made his first court appearance on Wednesday, but has been released after posting bond.

Willard Whitmore, 68, of The Plains, appeared in Athens County Municipal Court via video conference from Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail. Whitmore is alleged to have entered the Hocking Valley Bank in The Plains on Monday with a weapon and left with an undisclosed amount of cash.

He is charged with robbery, tampering with evidence and possession of criminal tools.

The robbery occurred at 8:20 a.m. and the suspect fled the scene on foot, travelling down Hartman Road into a wooded area.

Whitmore was located the first time in a wooded area behind the Foodland grocery store.

In the initial interview with authorities, Whitmore’s story as to why he was in the wooded area was found to be credible, according to Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith. Whitmore allegedly told law enforcement that he was in the area to pick up golf balls which had been hit into the woods. Others in the area confirmed that golf balls are hit into that area, and Whitmore had golf balls in his pocket.

He was also not wearing the clothes described at the time of the robbery. Capt. Bryan Cooper said that Whitmore allegedly had clothing underneath what was worn during the robbery, and the robbery clothing was found in the same wooded area.

A second conversation with Whitmore later in the day on Monday led to him being considered a suspect, however.

On Tuesday morning, Whitmore contacted the sheriff’s office to clear up some of the items in his story that had not matched up, and during the third interview Whitmore allegedly confessed to deputies.

Smith alleged that Whitmore led detectives to the money, which was hidden in a tree trunk near where Whitmore was first interviewed. The money found matched what was taken during the robbery, Smith said. The amount was not released to the public.

Smith stated that Whitmore reportedly told detectives that he needed the money to complete a project, although the nature of that project was not disclosed to the public. The sheriff also alleged that the robbery was carried out with advanced planning.

Cooper stated that it is believed everything used in the robbery has been recovered with the exception of the gun, which was a toy. Cooper described the weapon as a black camo firearm which was purchased at Dollar General and then spray painted.

Whitmore has been released on a $100,000 bond with posting of 10 percent permitted. He was also ordered to have no contact with Hocking Valley Bank.

A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for June 18.