Mountain Island bank robber convicted

by Andrew Batten

A federal court jury has convicted the man dubbed the “Bearded Bandit” of robbing a Mountain Island-area bank.

Michael Gene Terrelonge

The jury convicted Michael Gene Terrelonge, 42, on Tuesday, Oct. 19, of armed robberies of two Charlotte-area banks and a credit union. Terrelonge earned the Bearded Bandit nickname because he usually wore a fake beard and heavy makeup during the robberies.

Police arrested Terrelonge and his accomplice, 42-year-old Latries George Murphy, on Oct. 1, 2009, after the two men robbed the Wachovia bank on Couloak Drive in Charlotte.

Terrelonge later admitted to police that he was the “Bearded Bandit” and was responsible for 17 bank robberies dating back to 2004. In the trial that concluded Tuesday, jurors convicted him of robbing the Wachovia Bank at 10210 Couloak Drive, the Clearview Federal Credit Union at 2830 Boyer St. and the RBC Bank at 1000 East Blvd., all in Charlotte.

“The Bearded Bandit’s adventures in this district are over. Those who would rob banks should hear this jury’s verdict loud and clear: We will catch you, and you will be convicted,” U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins said in a news release following the verdict.

The two men’s suspected robbery spree came to an end last year thanks to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer’s sharp  eyes and quick thinking.

Officer M. Watts was looking for speeders on Valleydale Road when a man entered the Wachovia less than 3 miles away with a stocking over his face and demanded cash. Police said the man held up the bank just east of N.C. 16 and Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road about 9:15 a.m. and then drove away in a blue minivan.

But the van drove right past Watts, who pulled it over near Mt. Holly Road and Kenstead Circle. Watts found George driving the van, and inside, officers found the hat, mask, gloves and 9mm semiautomatic pistol used to rob the Wachovia Bank branch. Terrelonge had a loaded .38 special revolver in his waistband and was wearing a bulletproof vest.

George pleaded guilty to the charges before the trial began.

At the time of Terrelonge’s arrest, officers said he had robbed the same Mountain Island Wachovia 13 months previously. But he was never indicted on that robbery.

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