2016-12-01 / Front Page

Charges finally filed in Empire heist

$40,000 remains missing
By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

Leelanau County law enforcement officials still believe they have their man, and are filing additional charges including armed robbery to prove so.

The charges allege that a 69-year-old Benzonia man who was in custody for driving away a vehicle in Glen Arbor also robbed Empire Huntington Bank in Empire of nearly $40,000 later on the same day.

William F. Minore was scheduled to be arraigned at 11 a.m. today on a charge of armed robbery, which carries a sentence of up to life in prison. Minore will also be charged with felony firearm for the .38 caliber Smith and Wesson he allegedly used to pull off the Sept. 7 heist, which took place at about 1:30 p.m.

Minore has been in the Leelanau County Jail since Sept. 8, when he was arrested for allegedly driving off in a Kia Soul that was parked on Western Avenue in front of Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor.

Minore has pleaded not guilty to that charge, for which he is being held on a $1 million cash/ surety bond.

Bond on the new charges was expected to be set on Wednesday.

The amount taken from the bank was $39,966, said Leelanau County Prosecutor Joseph T. Hubbell.

“When he was arrested there was some money on him, but it wasn’t the amount that was taken,” Hubbell said. “Obviously the money is somewhere. We just haven’t been able to locate it.”

It has been nearly two months since Minore, dressed in black and armed with a handgun, allegedly walked into the Empire bank and demanded cash.

Since then investigators from the Leelanau County and Benzie County Sheriff’s offices, the Michigan State Police and the FBI have not found that money, despite extensive searches of Minore’s property on Higgins Road in Benzonia.

“It takes a long time to gather all of the evidence,” Hubbell said. “The case is built on circumstances and those circumstances have to be gathered and analyzed so we feel like we have a strong case to support the charges.”

Hubbell would not comment on that evidence or say if Minore has confessed to the bank robbery.

“Obviously if we have a trial more evidence will be introduced,” he said.

In a preliminary examination held in October on the vehicle theft charge, Leelanau County detective Bob Bailey testified that clothing and property matching what the man driving the Kia Soul was wearing were found in Minore’s home via a search warrant.

According to the felony complaint filed on Wednesday, video surveillance tapes allegedly show Minore stealing the silver Kia shortly before the robbery. The vehicle is also seen on video footage in Empire traveling to Huntington Bank before the robbery and leaving Empire and returning to Glen Arbor shortly after the robbery, according to the complaint.

The Kia was found later that same day parked in front of the Cherry Republic on Lake Street.

According to a timeline released by Hubbell, video shows the suspect entering the Kia in Glen Arbor at 1:16 p.m., the Kia entering Empire at 1:25 p.m., an armed man entering the bank at 1:39 p.m. and the Kia leaving Empire at 1:45 p.m.

Video from the bank of the robbery shows the robber, “who is the same height, build, eye color and general physical description as Defendant Minore, who was attempting to cover his face and disguise himself,” the complaint states.

The gun used in the robbery that is also visible in the videos matches the Smith and Wesson registered to Minore, the complaint states.

And finally, a voice that was recorded on calls made to 9-1-1 dispatchers was allegedly identified by people “intimately familiar with Defendant Minore” as being him, according to the complaint.

Prior to the Sept. 7 armed robbery, two calls were made to central dispatch reporting a robbery in progress at the Honor Bank in Lake Ann and a shooting at the Leelanau School.

Both calls turned out to be false and Minore is suspected of making them.

Grand Traverse County also has a hold on Minore, who will be charged there with two counts of possession/ sale of a taser for two ‘stun’ guns that were allegedly found in his vehicle when he was arrested Sept. 8 at a friend’s home in Interlochen.

Just under five pounds of marijuana were also found in Minore’s car and in his Benzie County home, reports have said.

No charges have yet been filed there, according to the Benzie County Prosecutor’s Office.

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