By DAVID ADAM
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
A man suspected of robbing the First Mid-Illinois Bank and Trust on Dec. 26 in Quincy, along with several other banks in the Midwest, has been arrested in Tampa, Fla.
Willie Franklin, 37, of Urbana, was taken into custody by federal authorities earlier this week. Police said he is a suspect in 14 bank robberies that took place in Kankakee, Mount Vernon, Manteno, Morton and Peoria in Illinois; Iowa City, Iowa; Wentzville, Mo.; and in Indiana. Franklin is awaiting other charges.
Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard says Franklin likely will face federal charges in conjunction with the robberies. Bond has been set on the Adams County warrant at $500,000.
Barnard said he is not permitted to discuss specific evidence in a pending case, but he said in a press release that "it is clear that the prompt and thorough action of the Quincy Police Department, including the patrol division and investigative division, developed critical clues that, in cooperation with other agencies, tied Franklin to the multiple bank robberies."
Barnard said officers from the department were deployed throughout the immediate area of the robbery in what is termed a "neighborhood canvass." Clues were developed and were given to state and federal authorities, as well as surveillance video from the robbery.
Lt. Dina Dreyer of the Quincy Police Department said Detective Travis Wiemelt and Detective Gabe Vanderbol were instrumental in helping determine that Franklin was a suspect in other cases.
"There are a couple of law enforcement database resources we use, and Travis started noticing that some of the circumstances were similar," Dreyer said. "The type of note that (Franklin) used and the (physical) description were the same. Travis started contacting those banks and getting their (surveillance) videos, and he realized they were all looking for the same guy."
"I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that were it not for the investigation performed by the Quincy Police Department, Franklin would still be at-large, and there almost certainly would have been more victims," Barnard said in the press release.
According to the Champaign News-Gazette, Urbana police Sgt. Adam Chacon spotted a car that had been linked to a Dec. 20 bank robbery in Manteno. The man who got in the yellow 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier was identified as Franklin, who was arrested on traffic-related charges on Jan. 2, posted bond and was released.
Urbana police Sgt. Dan Morgan said Franklin was questioned about the robberies while he was in custody. His name was relayed to other police agencies, but it wasn't until Jan. 3 — after Franklin had already been released from the Urbana jail — that Urbana police received a response that Franklin appeared to be the man in at least one bank's surveillance video and that a teller had picked him from a photo lineup.
"(Jan. 3) is the day when it really came together and we knew who we were looking for," Quincy Police Chief Rob Copley said. "I'm very happy this came together the way it did, and it was the result of a lot of hard work and cooperation between agencies."
The News-Gazette said that Champaign County court records show Franklin's most serious convictions there were both for possession of a stolen vehicle from 1995 and 1999. Franklin also has prior federal convictions for which he served prison time.