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    Police capture 'brazen' robber

    A manhunt ends Sunday when officers arrest the man they suspect in seven recent bank robberies in Pinellas and Pasco counties.


    Revised March 13, 2001

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 26, 2001

    ST. PETERSBURG -- On Friday, Pasco and Pinellas officials announced a nationwide manhunt for a serial bank robber thought to be armed and dangerous.

    They didn't have to look far.

    On Sunday, St. Petersburg police found Darrin C. Dillon, a Pasco man suspected of robbing five Pasco and two north Pinellas banks in nine days, lying in the sun in a St. Petersburg yard.

    "He was lying on his back, resting," said Sgt. Rick Stelljes, a spokesman for St. Petersburg police. "They couldn't tell whether he was really hiding or not."

    Pasco County detectives came to Pinellas to question Dillon, and by late Sunday afternoon, he had admitted to five of the seven robberies, Stelljes said.

    Pasco sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers said Sunday that Dillon had already been charged in the robbery of the Union Planters Bank in Port Richey. Charges had not been filed in the other robberies as of late Sunday. Dillon was held at the Pasco County jail Sunday night. Bail was set at $250,000.

    Dillon, 37, has been described by investigators as a "brazen" bank robber. In the holdups, bank tellers said a man in his 30s would enter the bank, hand them a note demanding money, then run away with the note and the money.

    Investigators got their break when an anonymous Pasco County woman called police in Largo, site of the most recent robbery, and told them about Dillon. They tracked him to an address on Cape Cod Drive in Holiday in southwest Pasco, but his wife said she kicked Dillon out on Valentine's Day.

    The events that led to Dillon's capture Sunday began with St. Petersburg police Officer Phil Postle, who was patroling near the Sun Daze Hotel at 1590 34th St. S. He noticed a silver Ford Taurus backed into a parking space at the hotel. He discovered the car had a West Virginia tag and when he checked the license plate number, he found the warrants for Dillon's arrest.

    Along with Officer Cheryl Oliver and Sgt. Phil Brewer, Postle learned that a man fitting Dillon's description had left the hotel with another man driving a black car, supposedly heading toward the neighborhood near 38th Street and 17th Avenue S.

    "They go into that area, and they're checking the area," Stelljes said. "They start showing his picture, talking to neighbors, doing all that kind of stuff."

    Residents told officers they had seen the black car in the neighborhood. Then, as officers were searching alleys in the area and checking bushes in case Dillon was hiding outside, Brewer noticed a man lying on his back in a yard, his arm draped across his eyes to protect them from the sun.

    Authorities suspect Dillon in the two bank robberies in Pinellas County: the AmSouth Bank, 40786 U.S. 19, Tarpon Springs, on Feb. 14, and the First Union Bank, 801 W Bay Drive, Largo, on Wednesday.

    The Pasco banks robbed were: Republic Bank, 6600 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey, on Feb. 13; SunTrust Bank at 1424 Seven Springs Blvd., New Port Richey, on Feb. 15; SouthTrust Bank at 3535 U.S. 19 in Holiday on Feb. 15; Bank of America at 2123 U.S. 19 in Holiday on Tuesday and the Union Planters Bank at 9431 U.S. 19 in Port Richey on Tuesday.

    Dillon's neighbors in Holiday said he and his wife bought a home in their neighborhood about three months ago. Previously, Dillon lived in West Virginia and in Kentucky, where he served time for robbing at least one bank. He was also arrested in Pasco on Jan. 11 on charges of petty larceny.

    - Times staff writer Matthew Waite contributed to this report.

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