FBI Arrests Suspect in Bank Heists

From Associated Press

It was always the same. A man would leap the bank counter, confront a teller, fire a handgun once or twice into the ceiling and demand money.

Then, disguised with a false hairpiece, mustache or beard, he fled in a waiting car.

For eight years, the man known as "The Shootist" traveled from bank to bank and state to state. Among his targets were banks in Irvine, Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano. Once in Mission Viejo, he got $38,000 for a day's work. Sometimes, he got nothing.

Over the weekend, he got caught.

Johnny Madison Williams Jr., 43, also known as Robert James Hall, and his wife, Carolyn Williams, 34, also known as Carolyn Hawkins, were arrested Saturday at a motel in Bothell, a suburb northeast of Seattle.

They were being held Sunday at the downtown Immigration and Naturalization Service lockup pending a federal court appearance Monday, FBI agent Roberta A. Burroughs said.

Williams was sought on a warrant from San Diego. His wife was arrested because evidence found in the motel room implicated her in at least some of the holdups, Burroughs said.

Williams made no formal confession but acknowledged responsibility for 56 holdups going back to July 3, 1986, Burroughs said.

A diary detailing 56 bank holdups, along with two pistols and various disguises, were found in the motel room, Bellevue police Lt. Jack McDonald said.

Agents in San Diego and Washington, D.C., verified that it was "the longest unsolved serial bank robbery case in the FBI's history," Burroughs said.

Williams was sought for investigation in 48 heists in which more than $750,000 was taken in California, Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Texas. He also admitted to eight others in which the amounts were not immediately known, Burroughs said.

"Usually, we don't have bank robbers out there for eight years," said Jan Caldwell, an FBI spokeswoman in San Diego. "That's a long time."

The arrest resulted from a tip after the robber was featured on a recent episode of the TV show "San Diego's Most Wanted," she said.

Burroughs said the biggest theft in which Williams is under investigation was of about $38,000 from a First Interstate branch in Mission Viejo.

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