A dash for freedom through a hotel window ends with the capture of an escaped convict; the police were tipped off by his alleged partner.
By CANDACE RONDEAUX
Published July 15, 2003
ST. PETERSBURG - Police Monday arrested an escaped convict accused of robbing three banks in St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs in less than a week.
John Edward Strole, 27, managed to elude authorities for weeks after his June 4 escape from the Fort Pierce Work Release Center in St. Lucie County. But it didn't take long for police to catch up with him at a St. Petersburg hotel after a female friend helped him rob a Bank of America in the Tarpon Mall Thursday.
Strole nearly got away again Monday when police tracked him down at the Royal Inn at 2646 Fourth St. N in St. Petersburg. He jumped out of his hotel window and hit the ground running when investigators knocked on his hotel room door.
"He tried to run from us," said St. Petersburg Police Department spokesman George Kajtsa. "We chased him a while on foot."
But officers soon caught Strole, who admitted to his role in a string of recent bank robberies after his capture, police said.
Strole's arrest comes just two days after police interviewed the woman charged with helping him in the holdups, Heather Lynn Landrum, 25, of 3514 Second Ave. N.
Landrum, police said, drove the getaway vehicle in all three robberies and was charged with three counts of accessory to armed robbery on Monday morning.
Investigators caught up with her at a topless lounge in Clearwater Saturday night after a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy identified her as the owner of a 1994 teal Saturn parked in the bar's lot. The car was the same one used during a bank robbery in Tarpon Springs last Thursday, police said.
During questioning, Landrum told detectives about Strole's hotel hide-out. After her arrest Monday morning, Landrum was being held at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $300,000 bail.
Police began tracking Strole after identifying him as a suspect in the Bank of America robbery at 910 Tarpon Ave.
Police say Strole entered the bank branch about 3:30 p.m. He then handed a teller a note demanding money and implied that he had a gun. The teller complied and Strole left the bank without incident, police said.
But a witness saw the bank robber drive away in Landrum's teal two-door Saturn, police said. The getaway car headed south on U.S. 19, but officers arriving at the scene a few minutes after Strole fled were unable to catch him Thursday.
Police later determined that a man fitting the Tarpon Mall bank robber's description was also a suspect in a bank robbery in St. Petersburg that occurred earlier the same day.
Kajtsa said Strole allegedly used a similar technique to rob a Bank of America branch at 1135 62nd Ave. N about noon last Thursday. Kajtsa said Strole also allegedly robbed another Bank of America branch 2145 34 St. N in St. Petersburg on July 8.
Strole, who was in the process of being booked into the jail Monday evening, has a string of arrests and convictions for burglary and larceny dating back to 1994. He was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of grand theft in May 1999 and began serving that sentence one month later, according to Florida Department of Corrections records.