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Pedaling robber quickly caught

The suspect is accused of using only a note to take $1,530 from Hernando County Bank.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- He had no master plan, no weapon.

Just a note stating "Give me your money," and his sister's pink and blue bicycle as his getaway vehicle.

Not surprisingly, John F. Morgan did not elude authorities for very long Friday after officials say he walked into the Hernando County Bank at 14300 Cortez Blvd., west of Brooksville, handed a teller a note and left with $1,530 in a manilla envelope. Witnesses said that after leaving the bank, the man ran behind the nearby Speedway service station, got on the bicycle and pedaled south on Barclay Avenue.

Morgan, 43, of 18301 U.S. 41, Lot B-5, in the Tall Pines RV Park, faces one count of bank robbery. The incident occurred at 9:20 a.m. Friday, and Morgan was being questioned by Hernando County sheriff's deputies a few hours later after they followed bicycle tracks to a dirt trail that led to a shed behind a home at 6448 Lucky Lane.

Authorities would have found him sooner, but when investigators knocked on the front door of the home, a teenager answered and said her mom was not there and she was not allowed to let anyone inside. The girl added that there was no one home except for her and her two younger brothers, a report said.

So deputies asked that the girl call her mother to get permission for them to search the house. Then they waited.

When the mother called back and gave her approval, officials went inside and found Morgan. The teen later said that Morgan, her uncle, had rushed into the home earlier that morning, shut the door and told her not to let anyone in under any circumstances, the report said.

When deputies initially questioned Morgan, he denied knowing about the bank robbery.

You're lying, officials told Morgan, and they urged him to tell the truth. They told him they knew he had been on a bicycle at the bank.

That's when Morgan broke down, authorities said, crying and admitting he had committed the robbery, though he said he didn't know what made him do it.

"It was a sobbing sort of cry," said sheriff's spokeswoman Deanna Dammer. "I mean sobbing. His whole body was shaking."

Officials searched the home and found most of the money, the note and the clothes they say Morgan wore during the crime, all stuffed in a red and white cooler that was hidden in a bedroom closet. Morgan turned over the rest of the cash, $104 he had in his pocket, a report said.

Morgan, a laborer, was later taken to the Hernando County Jail, where he remained Friday evening on $10,000 bail.

Records show that Morgan was found guilty of petty theft in March. He also was charged with drunken driving twice in 1998; the following year, he was charged with battery, child abuse and four counts of failing to appear at court hearings. Dispositions of those cases were not immediately available Friday.

Friday's robbery was the fourth time the Hernando County Bank has been robbed in the past five years, Dammer said. Bank officials declined comment.

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