Not-so-perfect getaway leads to arrest of bank heist suspect

 
Updated 8/11/2017 8:25 AM
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  • With a mask, cap, sunglasses and even gloves, this robber did his best to conceal his identity while holding up a North suburban bank last month. But poor choice of a getaway car may have doomed him.

    With a mask, cap, sunglasses and even gloves, this robber did his best to conceal his identity while holding up a North suburban bank last month. But poor choice of a getaway car may have doomed him. Courtesy of BanditTracker Chicago

The bank robber had all the bases covered to keep his identity concealed: a bandanna over his face, a baseball cap on his head, sunglasses to hide his eyes, long sleeves to cover his arms, even gloves to ensure he'd leave no fingerprints behind.

All that careful camouflage went to waste when he chose a well-marked loaner vehicle for his getaway car.

According to an FBI affidavit, that blunder and the cooperation of a Libertyville auto dealership were crucial to this week's arrest of a Waukegan man for the July 15 heist at a North suburban bank.

Authorities say Francisco Martinez, 24, robbed a Fifth Third Bank in Northbrook at gunpoint. Federal court documents say he entered the bank armed with a handgun, ordered a teller to "give me the money" and then, after filling a backpack with cash, warned the employee not to call police because "I can kill someone."

The FBI's break in the case came when they found two witnesses who spotted the robber driving away from the bank in a black Chevrolet Malibu. One witness saw the word "Libertyville" written on the driver's side door. Another recalled dealer plates and "Courtesy Vehicle" on a door.

Armed with that information, FBI agents checked in with Libertyville Chevrolet on the status of its loaners. Through a process of elimination -- the dealership had seven similar vehicles out on loan July 15 -- they discovered one unaccounted for at the time of the heist.

It was checked out July 1 to Francisco Martinez while his girlfriend's car was in for service.

At the request of law enforcement, the dealership contacted Martinez and asked him to come in for a new loaner due to a safety recall, an affidavit states. When Martinez showed up with the car July 20, he was questioned by investigators. He was released at that time, but after the FBI gathered more evidence -- including cellphone "pings" placing him near the bank July 15 -- he was arrested this week.

Life saving honors

Arlington Heights Police Officer Adam Plawer, center, received a life saving award this week from Mayor Tom Hayes, left, and Chief Gerald Mourning.
Arlington Heights Police Officer Adam Plawer, center, received a life saving award this week from Mayor Tom Hayes, left, and Chief Gerald Mourning. - Courtesy of Arlington Heights Police Department

Arlington Heights leaders honored four good Samaritans Monday for helping rescue a man who had been attacked with a chain saw June 19, but they weren't alone in getting well-deserved honors that night.

Police Officer Adam Plawer received a Life Saver Award for putting his safety at risk to pull an unconscious woman from her burning SUV after it slammed into a utility pole June 28.

According to the village, Plawer was on patrol about 10 p.m. when he responded to a 911 call about a vehicle that had veered off the roadway and crashed near Arlington Heights and Palatine roads. He arrived to find the SUV's engine compartment engulfed in flames and the driver behind the wheel, still wearing her seat belt and further restrained by an air bag.

With the doors locked, Plawer used his baton to break a window and get into SUV. He deflated the air bag, unbuckled the driver and pulled her to safety.

"The brave and heroic actions exhibited by Officer Plawer are certainly worthy of recognition," according to a village memo.

We couldn't agree more.

Whitfield loses appeal

Hezekiah Whitfield lost his bid for a new trial on charges he killed a Libertyville businessman in a 1994 robbery. He's serving a life sentence.
Hezekiah Whitfield lost his bid for a new trial on charges he killed a Libertyville businessman in a 1994 robbery. He's serving a life sentence.

A state appeals court has rejected a new trial request from a man serving a life sentence for the grisly 1994 slaying of Libertyville businessman Fred Reckling.

A jury convicted Hezekiah Whitfield, 47, of first-degree murder in 2014, finding he beat the 71-year-old Reckling to death with a handgun while robbing the victim's Waukegan appliance store.

While the court agreed the judge presiding over Whitfield's trial allowed some improper testimony, it unanimously ruled the totality of the evidence against him -- including DNA linking him to the crime -- was enough to prove him guilty regardless.

Whitfield, of Chicago, was prosecuted only after another man, James Edwards, spent 20 years behind bars for the killing. Edwards was exonerated by the same DNA evidence that implicated Whitfield.

Back to school

During his 31 years as a Geneva police officer, Tim Baker helped run Operation Snowball, a 13-school student leadership program to encourage kids to avoid substance abuse and make good choices.

Baker retired last year, but will again be working with young people.

The Kaneland school board has hired him to teach the law-enforcement/criminal justice class at the Fox Valley Career Center vocational cooperative school in Maple Park.

He takes over for George Mildner.

That's not Reggie

We thought we'd had some good news to report this week when a colleague spotted what appeared to be Reggie the Rooster back out in front of Richard Kirshner's Hawthorn Woods home.

Alas, it's not Reggie, Kirshner told us this week, just a close facsimile.

As we wrote last month Reggie -- a 5-foot-tall statute of a rooster that had been standing guard outside the Kirshner home -- went missing July 8 and was presumably stolen. Despite the offer of a $100 reward, Reggie hasn't been returned and Kirshner has heard nothing of its whereabouts.

"It's gone," he told us this week. "We thought if some kids took it, maybe a parent would find it, or maybe someone would find it somewhere laying around, but it's gone."

So what's standing in Reggie's place? Two statutes, actually. One is a similar rooster Kirshner found recently, and the other is a slightly smaller hen bought for him by his daughter.

• Got a tip? Send an email to copsandcrime@dailyherald.com or call (847) 427-4483.

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