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Bandit Gives Back Cash in a Case of Robber’s Remorse : Crime: The distraught man attempts suicide in jail after returning the money and apologizing to the Acton bank.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A robber who stole $1,500 from an Acton bank had second thoughts about the deed, authorities said Thursday. He returned to the bank shortly after the heist, set the cash on the counter and apologized. Then he sat in a chair and waited quietly for sheriff’s deputies to arrive.

Michael Joseph Smith, 26, a Palmdale carpenter, was so distraught over the crime and personal problems that he attempted suicide Thursday at the Antelope Valley Jail, where he was being held on suspicion of bank robbery, Sheriff’s Sgt. Bob Denham said. Bail has been set at $25,000. Smith was transferred to the County Jail’s medical ward at County-USC Medical Center, where he was being closely watched, Denham said.

“He’s down and out, this guy is,” said Denham.

The robbery occurred about 10 a.m. Wednesday when Smith went to the Acton branch of Antelope Valley Bank, 31924 Crown Valley Road, and handed a bank teller a note while reaching over the counter and grabbing cash that had just been deposited, Denham said.

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The money had been raised for charity at the Antelope Valley Fair and deposited by Acton businessman Richard Grzesiak, Denham said.

Grzesiak was leaving the bank when the teller ran outside and told him what happened. As Smith fled in his car, Grzesiak followed in his truck. He found Smith a few miles away. Smith had already stopped along the side of the road and apparently was having second thoughts, Denham said.

“He realized he was screwing up big time,” Smith’s roommate said.

Grzesiak, who could not be reached Thursday, gave Smith a ride back to the bank and the money was redeposited, Denham said.

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Smith’s roommate, who asked not to be named, said he thought Smith took the money to meet a child-support payment so he could visit his 11-month-old son.

The boy’s mother, Smith’s former girlfriend, wouldn’t let Smith visit the boy otherwise, the roommate said.

But the mother, who also asked not to be named, maintained that she has never denied Smith visits with their child or forced him into any kind of payments. She said she believed Smith robbed the bank to get her attention and win back her affection.

Both said Smith, who recently quit one construction job and had started another, was receiving psychiatric care at the jail’s medical ward.

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