“Daybreak Bandit” Tried Burning Through Stolen Cash — Literally

When a Joliet man suspected of being the "Day Break Bandit" was confronted by police at a south suburban Matteson home Wednesday evening, he allegedly attempted to destroy the evidence by burning the stolen money in a fireplace.

The suspect and his alleged accomplice were taken into custody about 7 p.m. Wednesday, 12 hours after a Harris Bank branch, at 207 N. Midland Ave., in Joliet, was robbed as two employees were opening.

Jermaine Smith, 25, of the 800 block of Ewing Ave., in Joliet, was arrested Wednesday after he attempted to flee from a home in Matteson. He was charged Thursday with one count of bank robbery for the Wednesday robbery of the Joliet bank, according to a release from the Chicago FBI office.

Judge Susan E. Cox ordered him held without bond pending his next scheduled court appearance.

Though Smith is charged only with the Joliet robbery, he is also suspected in as many as four other robberies dating back to March of 2008, including the March 14 robbery of the Marquette Bank branch, at 1876 W. Airport Rd., in Romeoville, and robberies of Harris Bank branches in Hinsdale on March 17, 2008 and Plainfield on Oct. 30, 2008.

In the Joliet robbery for which Smith is charged, the Day Break Bandit -- so nicknamed because he strikes while employees are arriving to open the banks -- confronted an employee as she was about to enter the bank just after 7 a.m. He threatened to hurt her if she did not follow his instructions and then went with her into the bank after a second bank employee already inside unlocked the door, according to the FBI release.

"He implied he was armed, but did not display a weapon," Joliet police Chief Fred Hayes said

The robber then demanded to be led to the vault and filled a black plastic garbage bag with over $71,000 in cash before fleeing. Bank employees were able to give a description of the robber to police and said he was wearing a black leather "Sean John" jacket.

During the investigation into the robbery, law enforcement discovered that an unoccupied vehicle parked in the lot of a grocery store adjacent to the bank was registered to Smith and that his physical description, as it was listed on the Illinois Secretary of State’s records, matched that of the robber, the release said.

When investigators watched surveillance videotapes from the grocery store, they noticed that a blue Honda Accord the suspect got into after the robbery had spent "about 20 seconds" parked next to Smith’s vehicle, a silver Ford Ranger. The Accord was registered to an associate of Smith’s in Matteson.

"The Ranger was in the lot for about four hours and left without our knowledge while the tape was being reviewed," Hayes said.

Officers checked "every hotel in the city" and found the Ranger about 1 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express on Route 30 near Interstate 55.

At 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, "our detectives knocked on the door and met with the man occupying the hotel room," Hayes said. "While speaking with him, they noticed clothing which matched the description of the robber's, including a distinctive pair of gloves."

Meanwhile, other investigators went to the Matteson home where the Accord was registered, and were met by Smith. While at the home, the investigators noticed a black leather "Sean John" jacket was on the back seat of the Honda Accord, which was parked in the driveway, leading them to set to work obtaining a search warrant.

As they waited for the warrant, a smoke alarm inside the home went off and they saw Smith opening windows in the home, which smelled of smoke. Suspecting Smith was burning evidence, they entered the home and found cash burning in the fireplace, the FBI release said.

As the fire was being extinguished, Smith allegedly fled on foot and was taken into custody a few blocks away.

In addition to the burning cash, other evidence linking Smith to the Joliet robbery was also found in the home, according to the release.

On Monday, the FBI issued an announcement that a $20,000 reward was being offered for the arrest of the Day Break Bandit.

It is not clear whether the alleged accomplice was charged or will be charged.

Smith faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charge against him, the FBI release said.

Copyright CHIST - SunTimes
Contact Us