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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Busting a bank robber

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Sharp-eyed Schaller woman earns $1,500 reward for foiling a mobile robbery crew.

It was just a brief twinge of suspicion on the part of Darla Miller and a few customers at the Early Fuel Mart to jot down a license plate number back in March - but that scrap of paper has helped authorities catch four people wanted for robbing a Sioux City bank.

And all these months later, the grateful bank has thanked her with an unexpected reward for $1,500.

It was March 26 when Darla Miller was working at the Fuel Mart south of Early. A couple of regulars were having coffee on that March 26 at the Fuel Mart when a blue Lumina with Polk County plates pulled up to the store, Miller said.

Two of the car's occupants came in to the store and another two stayed in the car, she said.

At first Miller thought it was a state tobacco check because a car with Polk County plates was used during a previous check.

However, the two young people entering the store were far from police accomplices.

"There was certain things they did that made me watch them a little bit more," she said.

"It was the end of March, beginning of April and they wanted ski masks," she said. "They already had stocking caps, and a ski mask is something a person generally doesn't pick up at a convenience store."

The two were in the store between 15 and 20 minutes, Miller said, and asked for a number of items like hamburger, grills and charcoal.

"They asked for some charcoal lighter fluid, but we were all out," she said.

Miller and two customers decided to write down the license plate number. Then she went about her work and forgot about the odd incident. It was later that night she would make the connection.

She was watching television and heard how a Wells Fargo bank had been robbed, and that the suspects were seen jumping into a blue Lumina after starting a pick-up truck on fire.

"It kind of hit me all at once," Miller said. It appeared the robbers had stopped in Early en route to their target.

She called one of the men who had been in the store when the Lumina was there. He decided to call the Sac County communications center.

Several times over the next week Miller was interviewed by law enforcement officials, but after the beginning of April did not hear anything more about the case.

But just last week she received a thank-you note and a check from the president of Wells Fargo, thanking Miller for being a good citizen. Three of the four suspects she saw have been convicted.

"It was kind of a fluke thing that happened," Miller said. "It's the small things they did that caught my eye. Then when I was watching the news that night, I wondered if it was those kids; evidently it was... I guess we did the right thing."



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