Accused bank robber goes on the run

DOVER — The long-running case of a 45-year-old man accused of a 2011 Felton bank robbery took another detour Monday as his whereabouts are currently unknown.

Russell M. Grimes, of the 500 block of Turnberry Court in Bear, was scheduled to defend himself in a re-trial beginning Monday in Kent County Superior Court.

However, officials said he changed course and sought counsel instead.

Standby counsel was not available, according to the Department of Justice, so the trial was continued until Monday, April 11.

After Mr. Grimes drove from the Kent County Courthouse on Monday, however, he was stopped by Delaware State Police and charged with misdemeanor no valid license and failure to have proof insurance violations, officials said.

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Russell M. Grimes

After the charges were filed in Justice of the Court 7 in Dover, officials said, Mr. Grimes called his probation officer and was told to report in person on Tuesday.

According to the DOJ, Mr. Grimes did not report the next day and removed a GPS monitor.

No further details on the traffic stop of Mr. Grimes were available by early Friday night.

Authorities said Mr. Grimes is sought on two capiases — from New Castle County Superior Court for the violation of probation (traffic violation) and from Kent County Superior court for breach of release.

At just before 5 p.m. Friday, Department of Correction spokeswoman Chelsea Hicks said, “Given that the capiases remain as active, it can be stated that as of this time, offender Grimes has not been located.”

Originally, Mr. Grimes was convicted on May 28, 2013, of allegedly taking part in robbing the First National Bank of Wyoming in Felton on Aug. 26, 2011. He was sentenced by Judge Robert B. Young to 62 years prison time on July 25, 2013, but the conviction was later overturned and another trial scheduled.

Objecting to bail

The DOJ said the state objected to Judge Young’s reduction of Mr. Grimes’ bail to $76,000 secured on June 12, 2015.

Prosecuting Deputy Attorney General Susan Schmidhauser filed a motion to increase bail on July 8, 2015.

“While this Court noted that this defendant had been incarcerated for essentially four years on this case (pretrial, trial, sentencing, and appeal), the Court did not take into account that the defendant was wanted out of (New Castle County Superior Court on two cases) at the time of this offense,” the attorney general’s motion read.

The attorney general’s office said it believed Mr. Grimes “surely falls in the high risk category” of detainment concerns based on a risk assessment, noting that he had 39 prior capiases.

“As the Court is aware, the defendant is a career criminal, subjecting him to be sentenced pursuant to (Delaware Code),” the attorney general wrote.

“ … Prior to this offense, the defendant failed to appear in New Castle County Superior Court in two separate cases and he had been wanted for six months.”

Also, Ms. Schmidhauser wrote, “The Court is aware of the violent nature of this alleged crime where the defendant engaged in a high speed chase with police for more than 12 miles where innocent drivers were subjected to gunfire from the defendant’s co-defendant and erratic driving by the defendant resulting in the defendant losing control of the vehicle and crashing into a ditch.“

Ms. Schmidhauser said she believed, “When balancing all the (factors), this defendant has a lengthy history of failing to appear to Court when ordered to.

“In this case the defendant is facing a minimum mandatory 60 year sentence yo to life. There is a high likelihood that the defendant will run. Even though the Court has ordered that he be monitored by an ankle monitor, that cannot secure his presence for the impending trial.

“As the Court is aware, ankle monitors can and have been easily cut off.”

Ms. Schmidhauser contended that “the safety of victims, witnesses and the community at large cannot be protected given the capias history and his past criminal behaviors unless the defendant is detained.

“The Court may recall that pending this trial, the defendant wrote a letter to a potential witness and advised her how to testify. As a result, the defendant was charged with tampering with a witness.

“After the conviction on these charges, the State agreed to nolle pros that case given the sentence that the defendant received.”

The attorney general asked for a total bail increased to $125,500 cash and $5,500 unsecured, noting that guidelines call for a bond setting between $43,000 and $137,000.

Judge Young responds

On July 9, 2015, Judge Young wrote that $108,000 in delineated bonds “will all be SECURED along with the installation of a GPS ankle bracelet monitor.”

Leading up to the final order, Judge Young wrote that “The final issue, of course, is the type of bail to be sent.

“As SENTAC advises, cash bail is to be reserved for only the most serious or unusual circumstances. While Defendant’s background and the moving vehicle shootout associated with this case make the State’s request for cash bail legitimate and understandable, never-the-less even secured bail is considered reasonable only if aggravating circumstances exist.”

In increasing the bail, Judge Young reasoned that “Defendant’s history of failures to appear, particularly for trial, until captured in the course of a dramatic police chase is significant.”

Judge Young began his order with “The State has moved to increase bail presently designated for (Mr. Grimes) on the basis that, when bail was set (at $76,000) the Court was unaware of capiases already issued (though returned when Defendant was captured in association with the instant charges) for Defendant’s failure to appear for arraignment, case review, and trial in two other matters out of New Castle County.

“Given that, and given the serious charges (Mr. Grimes) confronts here; and given associations of (Mr. Grimes) in North Carolina, the State contends that (Mr. Grimes’) likelihood of flight is severe, rendering the bond previously set, at the lower level of SENTAC guidelines, insufficient.”

Judge Young mentioned Mr. Grimes’ contention that he had “matured considerably” since “those prior failures”, and “that any bond posted would be provided for by putting into jeopardy the home of (Mr. Grimes’) mother, the one person who stood by him throughout the entire four-year period.

“(Mr. Grimes) also asserts, entirely reasonably, that his being in the community would assist greatly in his ability to obtain counsel of his choice (Defendant having rejected the assistance of legal representation through the Office of the Public Defender) and to prepare for his defense of these charges.”

An attempt to reach Judge Young for comment Friday afternoon was not immediately successful.

Alleged incident unfolds

According to authorities earlier, Mr. Grimes and co-defendant William Sells allegedly fled from the Felton bank and a 16-mile car chase and shootout through Kent County with pursing police Felton, Harrington and Delaware State Police officers ensued; three police vehicles were struck with gunshots, authorities said.

Police said Mr. Grimes was taken into custody on the day of the alleged bank robbery after being shot during the chase.

No other injuries reported at the bank or during the vehicle pursuit, officials said.

In the re-trial, Mr. Grimes is facing charges of first-degree robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, second-degree conspiracy, second-degree reckless endangering (five counts), and possession of a firearm/ammunition by person prohibited.

Mr. Grimes was first indicted on Nov. 7, 2011.

In his first trial verdict that was overturned, Mr. Grimes was convicted of first-degree robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by person prohibited, second-degree conspiracy, and second degree reckless endangering (five counts).

He was found not guilty of first-degree conspiracy, theft, and six counts of aggravated menacing.

Judge Young earlier sentenced Mr. Grimes to 64 years in prison as a habitual offender.

The conviction was overturned in the Supreme Court on July 25, 2013 after Mr. Sells earlier challenged a Superior Court judge’s ruling regarding use of peremptory challenges and had his verdict vacated.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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