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J.L. Hunter ‘Red’ Rountree, 92; Inmate Was Believed to Be Nation’s Oldest Bank Robber

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From Associated Press

J.L. Hunter “Red” Rountree, believed to be the nation’s oldest bank robber, who turned to crime in his 80s, has died. He was 92.

A spokesman for the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo., said Rountree died Oct. 12.

The cause of death was not reported.

Rountree was transferred to Springfield shortly after his sentencing in January for a bank holdup in Abilene, Texas, when he was 91.

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The Abilene job was the last of three bank robberies Rountree began in 1998, at age 86.

In an interview with Associated Press earlier this year, he said he walked slowly to a teller’s window, handed over an envelope indicating his intent and was greeted with a surprised “Are you kidding?”

The teller complied anyway, but Rountree was later caught and sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison -- a death sentence for a man of his age.

“You want to know why I rob banks?” Rountree asked in the interview. “It’s fun. I feel good, awful good. I feel good for sometimes days, for sometimes hours.”

Born Dec. 11, 1911, in his family’s farmhouse near Brownsville, Texas, Rountree was once a successful businessman who had made his fortune in Houston by building Rountree Machinery Co., a relative said.

Before that, he had a business bank loan turn sour and the bitterness stayed with him, he indicated in the March interview from his wheelchair in prison.

About a year after his wife’s death in 1986, Rountree, then 76, married a 31-year-old woman and spent $500,000 putting her through drug rehabilitation programs, he said.

In 1998, Rountree robbed SouthTrust Bank in Biloxi, Miss., and was sentenced to three years’ probation, fined $260 and told to leave Mississippi.

A year later, he robbed a NationsBank in Pensacola, Fla., but this time he was sentenced to three years behind bars.

He was released in 2002.

In August 2003, Rountree robbed First American Bank in Abilene.

No family member claimed Rountree’s body, said Al Quintero, a prison spokesman.

He is buried in a cemetery near the Springfield federal prison.


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