Feds say DNA from en­ve­lope a key in ar­rest in fa­tal 2003 rob­bery

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Carolyn Thomp­son

A man charged in a fa­tal bank rob­bery 13 years ago was cap­tured with the help of a tip­ster and DNA se­cretly col­lected from an en­ve­lope when he coin­ci­den­tally filed a fraud com­plaint, au­thor­i­ties said Wednes­day.

Richard Leon Wil­bern was ar­rested Tues­day when he went to meet with FBI agents in Rochester, New York, for what he thought was a meet­ing about his com­plaint.

Wil­bern had been on the FBI’s radar since March, when a for­mer co-worker named him as a sus­pect in the Au­gust 2003 rob­bery of a credit union on the Xerox Corp.’s Web­ster cam­pus where he once worked.

Bank cus­tomer Raymond Batzel was fa­tally shot in the neck and an­other cus­tomer was wounded when a man wear­ing an FBI jacket and a U.S. Mar­shal’s badge opened fire af­ter telling an em­ployee he was there for a se­cu­rity as­sess­ment. The rob­ber es­caped with more than $10,000.

The co-worker’s tip fol­lowed a March news con­fer­ence dur­ing which FBI agents re­leased pho­tos of the sus­pect and of­fered a $50,000 re­ward for help in solv­ing what had be­come a cold case.

“We were given Richard Wil­bern’s name and hard facts and de­tails about his his­tory,” Adam Co­hen, spe­cial agent in charge of the FBI’s Buf­falo of­fice, said at a news con­fer­ence in Rochester.

In what Co­hen called “an in­cred­i­ble co­in­ci­dence,” in­ves­ti­ga­tors were look­ing into the tip when Wil­bern called the FBI to re­port a sus­pected real es­tate scam, court doc­u­ments show.

Agents met with Wil­bern in July to dis­cuss his com­plaint. Dur­ing the sec­ond meet­ing, they had him sign pa­per­work and lick an en­ve­lope, from which they ob­tained a DNA sam­ple, they said. They matched that sam­ple to one taken from an um­brella left be­hind at the bank rob­bery 13 years ear­lier, U.S. At­tor­ney Wil­liam Hochul said.

Wil­bern was charged Tues­day with bank rob­bery re­sult­ing in death and weapons counts. Dur­ing an ini­tial ap­pear­ance in fed­eral court, he re­quested a pub­lic de­fender. A de­ten­tion hear­ing was sched­uled for Oct. 19.

Wil­bern, who served prison time for a 1980 bank rob­bery, worked at Xerox from 1997 un­til be­ing fired in 2001. He had sued the copier com­pany for racial dis­crim­i­na­tion in 2000, a com­plaint dis­missed by a judge in De­cem­ber 2002.

“It was my prayer that I would live long enough to see this case come to jus­tice,” Batzel’s 89-year-old mother said at Wednes­day’s news con­fer­ence, “and I’m sure that’s what’s go­ing to hap­pen now.”

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