The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

August 22, 2012

Marysville man gets 5- to 20-year prison term for Shamokin Dam bank robbery

MIDDLEBURG — A Marysville man who called a cab after robbing a Shamokin Dam bank of $6,000 in November will spend at least five years in state prison for a crime he insists he committed out of desperation to help his family pay bills.

William G. Cowell, 32, was accused of walking into the First National Bank on Routes 11-15 in Shamokin Dam on Nov. 18 and demanding money by threatening tellers he had a gun, which he did not display. He left the area with $6,165 in cash in a taxi that picked him up in a restaurant parking lot across the highway from the bank.

In a letter mailed to The Daily Item, Cowell begins the two-page note penned at Snyder County Jail, where he’s been held since early December, by explaining he robbed the bank to help his financially strapped family, which includes five children and unemployed wife.

“I do take responsibility and accountability for what I’ve done,” Cowell wrote. “I know it was wrong and unjustified and if I could take it back, I would.”

But he added, “If there ever was a good reason to commit a crime, I believe to save my family from being homeless is as good as any.”

The convicted bank robber now says the cab driver was in on the crime and received $1,300 for his role, claims that were news to his defense attorney and rejected by the prosecutor. Cowell had taken the cab from Marysville to Shamokin Dam and then got out to rob the bank.

A driver with Alpine Cab Co. in the Harrisburg area, said he drove Cowell from New Cumberland to Selinsgrove to “meet someone,” according to court records.

Their first stop was at McDonald’s, and then Sears Department Store in the Susquehanna Valley Mall, where he saw Cowell removing white gloves as he walked toward the vehicle. They drove back to McDonald’s and Cowell left the cab.

The cab driver said he got tired of waiting for Cowell and, thinking he was being stiffed for the fare, headed back to Harrisburg.

Minutes before the robbery, Cowell noticed the cab was gone and called the cab driver to ask him to return to pick him up.

It was that phone call that helped link him to the crime because the cab operator called the restaurant back to inquire about the “guy who called for the cab,” court records said.

Defense attorney Matthew Slivinski said Cowell never told him the driver was involved and District Attorney Michael Piecuch said there was no evidence to support the claim.

“The cabbie was cooperative,” Piecuch said, denying Cowell’s allegation that the driver received immunity for his testimony. “I wouldn’t take William Cowell’s word for anything.”

Cowell was sentenced Tuesday in Snyder County Court to a prison term of five years to 20 years after pleading guilty to felony robbery and possession of an instrument of crime. He also paid $6,165 in restitution.

Piecuch credited the plea deal to Shamokin Dam Police Chief Timothy Bremigen, who linked Cowell to the robbery. During the police investigation, Bremigen was able to trace the robber’s steps and determined he had left the scene in a taxi.

“It wasn’t a typical case,” Piecuch said. “Chief Bremigen was able to find the taxi driver and retrace (Cowell’s) steps. That absolutely resulted in the plea.”

 

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