Well, it certainly didn't take long! Police have captured the "Grandma Bandit!"
Suspected ‘Grandma Bandit' was desperate, neighbors say
By PEGGY O'HARE and MIKE GLENN Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Sept. 29, 2009, 11:07PM
Police say a robber got away with more than $5,000 in cash.
Three years ago, Theresa Mary Gaas joined a civic group to combat crime in her northeast Houston neighborhood and for a time served as the organization's treasurer.
On Tuesday, the 56-year-old woman found herself the one behind bars, arrested by authorities who accuse her of robbing two Houston banks within an hour and taking about $5,200 in cash.
FBI officials declined to discuss a motive, but some neighbors said she told them she was in dire financial straits and had taken to collecting empty soda cans from a nearby yard to help make ends meet. Many were surprised to hear of her arrest.
Mary Chavez spoke with Gaas at a local grocery about two months ago.
“All she said was, ‘I need money so bad. I'm desperate,' ” said Chavez, who lives down the street from Gaas' home in the 1100 block of Egypt. “I wish she had called on people to help out.
“She's a fine lady. It's a shame. When you get up in age, you don't know what to do,” Chavez said.
Ruben Gomez, who lives across the street from the suspected robber, described Gaas as a good — if private — neighbor. Gaas generally kept to herself and had lived alone since her mother died within the past year.
“I didn't know she was hurting for money. If she needed food, we would have helped her,” said Gomez.
Gaas was arrested on two charges of robbery and has been ordered held on bail totaling $20,000.
She is accused of robbing a pair of Compass Bank branches Friday afternoon by claiming she had a gun. The robber did not conceal her face, which was clearly captured in pictures taken by surveillance cameras. Federal authorities dubbed the robber the “Grandma Bandit.”
An anonymous Crime Stoppers tip received Monday led to Gaas' arrest, court papers show.
Gaas was arrested around 9 a.m. in her car near her home, FBI officials said. The lifelong Houston resident lived at her late mother's white clapboard home, which is valued at $71,000.
She had no criminal background.
Active in civic group
Gaas is a member of the North Central Civic Association and has served as treasurer for the group, public records show. At a Metro Solutions public hearing in 2006, she said she joined the civic group “to try to bring down the crime rate here in Houston and this side of town,” a transcript of the hearing shows.
She took an active interest in Metropolitan Transit Authority issues, revealing at that 2006 hearing that she voted for light rail and saying her neighborhood needed Bus Rapid Transit “to improve this side of town,” but noted she was concerned with the cost of the project, the transcript shows.
Gaas is accused of walking into the Compass Bank at 1217 West 43rd around 12:40 p.m. Friday, approaching a teller and saying, “I have a gun — give me all the money,” a criminal complaint shows.
The teller feared what would happen if she did not comply, so she gave the woman the money from her drawer. Robbery investigators believe Gaas got away with $1,966 in cash in that first heist.
She is accused of driving to a Compass Bank at 204 West 19th Street an hour later, walking up to a teller and repeating, “I have a gun — give me all the money.” She then allegedly added, “Give me all the 50s and 100s,” the criminal complaint shows. In that second heist, police believe Gaas escaped with $3,294 in cash.
Both tellers later positively identified Gaas as the bank robber in a photo lineup, court papers show.
At the time of her arrest, Gaas was driving a white Chevrolet sport utility vehicle matching the description of a vehicle seen leaving the two banks after the robberies, FBI officials said. That vehicle, with a disabled parking tag, was parked in the driveway of Gaas' home Tuesday night.
Oh well, bless her heart! Let's get some coffee and see if we can figure out what we may have done to help!