Bank Robbers Lived in a Haze of Love, Denial
Sunday, December 18, 2005
The cell phone bandits were talking again, but not to each other. This time, one wasn't inside the bank while the other waited in the getaway car. This time, they were in jail and telling their story for the first time since pleading guilty to robbing four banks in Northern Virginia.
As Candice Martinez tells it, by 19, she had survived drug overdoses, a violent father, a "partying" mother, sexual abuse and depression. She had escaped the tough neighborhoods of Santa Fe, N.M. -- twice. This time, she had landed in a tranquil, suburban cul-de-sac in Fairfax County. She finally had a job, she was going to college, she had a boyfriend -- "my knight in shining armor."
"Living here was like my last chance," Martinez, wearing a dark green uniform, said over the telephone system through the visiting-room glass at the Alexandria city jail last week. "It was a miracle to land in Virginia, in school, a job, healthy. I don't know how I ever compromised that. I'm so upset with myself. I ruined my life. I'm going to live with the regret forever."
While Martinez's life was getting better, Dave C. Williams's was heading in the opposite direction. He had spent a trouble-free youth playing basketball, grooving to reggae and hip-hop and working part-time jobs. But when he was 19, his family began to disintegrate. His father was jailed for embezzling $265,000 from his employer. His mother had immigration problems. His older brother went away to college.
"I couldn't go to work, I was so depressed," Williams said by telephone from the Alexandria jail.
It was at that moment, earlier this year, when the lives of Martinez and Williams intersected. They met on a campus of Northern Virginia Community College. Soon, they were in love.
And soon after that, they were in banks.
Four times in three weeks, Martinez walked into Northern Virginia banks while talking on her cell phone to Williams, outside in the car. Four times, Martinez used a note to demand cash. In all, they absconded with more than $48,000. She never bothered to hide her face, and after surveillance video of one robbery was flashed on television nationwide, she and Williams were arrested.
Martinez and Williams, both 19, did not want to discuss how they decided to rob banks or how the robberies were planned.
Martinez's attorney, Michael S. Davis, said he believed the idea originated with Williams, a former Wachovia Bank teller. Martinez said: "I had a part in this, too. I could have said no, but I didn't."
Prosecutors said the pair typed up their "demand note" on a computer and taped it to a box, which Martinez showed to tellers. In the fourth robbery, she also showed the teller a .38-caliber pistol.
And the cell phone? "I just wanted to know everything that was going on inside there," Williams said, "so I kept her on the phone. I don't know why people make a big deal about the cell phone. I know it's kind of awkward, but I just wanted to know how she was doing."