Guilty plea closes the book on a romance novel model's crime spree

Guilty plea closes the book on a romance novel model's crime spree
  (Michael Stokes)

Former romance novel cover model David Byers has written the final chapter of his brief and wild history as a fugitive bank robber.

On Tuesday — roughly six months after he was captured in San Diego — Byers pleaded guilty in federal court in Connecticut to a charge of robbery.


The charge stemmed from a series of April stick-ups that kept the 35-year-old running from the law for nearly two weeks, according to authorities.

Byers, of Solana Beach, appeared on the covers of four romance novels, L.A.-based photographer Michael Stokes told The Times after Byers’ capture in May.

Byers’ tattooed physique was also displayed on the cover of Stokes’ book, “Exhibition.” Stokes said Byers was best known for his “edgy, hard, bad-boy” look.

Although Byers often appeared partially dressed in his modeling work, he chose to wear a bandanna on his face and a gun in his pocket when he robbed a Long Island gas station of $300 in Nesconset, N.Y., on April 19, according to prosecutors. A day later, he hit a Chase Bank a few miles north in Stony Brook, where he escaped with more than $2,100.

On April 24, Byers again wore a bandana and flashed a gun when he robbed a Citgo gas station in Greenwich, Conn., of $223. The next day, he stole $8,700 from a Chase Bank, also in Greenwich, prosecutors said. He robbed the same bank again the next day, this time making off with almost $3,400.

The robberies occurred in a 48-hour span and triggered an intensive manhunt.

Authorities in Connecticut searched neighborhoods and went door-to-door looking for Byers. Officers spotted him, and Byers led them on a vehicle chase that ended when Byers bailed out of his car and ran across a highway.

Police did not find Byers at the time, but they found a stolen Range Rover with a pit bull inside, according to an arrest warrant filed in Connecticut Superior Court. Authorities discovered that the license plate had been stolen off the vehicle.

Byers put that license plate on another vehicle and headed to California, but was spotted and pursued by Pennsylvania State Police, prosecutors said. Authorities deflated Byers’ car’s tires with a spike strip, but the romance model jumped out of the car, ran to a pick-up truck that had keys already inside and escaped again.

He then stole the license plate off a car from Maryland at a nearby rest stop, put it on the truck he’d just stolen, and continued west toward California, officials said.

One witness told authorities Byers said he was from California, “but liked the Greenwich area because he had made $18,000 in the past three days,” according to the warrant in Connecticut.

Byers’ girlfriend told authorities that he had emailed her a photograph showing stacks of cash.

After his escape in Pennsylvania, Byers disappeared from law enforcement’s radar for two days until he was spotted in Arizona on May 1. Though Byers ditched his car again and ran off, his escape was short-lived.

On May 2, San Diego SWAT officers spotted Byers when he pulled into the parking lot of a liquor store at Upas and 30th streets. They discharged a flash-bang grenade to distract Byers and took him into custody, KNSD-TV in San Diego reported.


Byers is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 30 and faces up to 20 years in federal prison.