More details released in Kealakekua bank robbery
KAILUA-KONA — The 30-year-old man accused of robbing the American Savings Bank branch in Kealakekua last week reportedly was released from a hospital psychiatric ward earlier that day.
Russell Monlux spent time in the Kona Community Hospital psychiatric ward before being released the morning of Jan. 3, according to an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint Monday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Honolulu.
The affidavit also states surveillance video from the hospital on Dec. 30 showed Monlux wearing an identical T-shirt to the one worn during the robbery.
The hospital is located about a half-mile north of the bank branch off Mamalahoa Highway that Monlux — who has a history of mental issues — is accused of robbing.
Judy Donovan, hospital spokeswoman, declined to comment, citing privacy rules.
Monlux made his initial appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu on a single federal charge of bank robbery. His attorney with the Office of the Federal Public Defender motioned for a competency evaluation. Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield set a March court hearing for that motion.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also moved to detain Monlux without bail, arguing there was no means for reasonably assuring he would appear for hearings and “because there is no condition or combination of conditions of release which will reasonably assure the safety of any other person in the community.”
Tom Brady, chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s criminal division, said Tuesday that proceedings in the case are suspended pending the competency evaluation.
Big Island police and federal officials allege Monlux entered the bank about 3 p.m. Jan. 3 and passed a note to a teller demanding cash. The affidavit in support of the federal charge provided the first glimpse of the interaction between the suspect and bank teller and what occurred thereafter until Monlux’s arrest the next day.
“Give all the money or die ‘I got a gun’ 20 min befor (sic) you call 911 mafia will kill your mom (expletive) you (expletive),” the note reads according to the affidavit by an FBI special agent.
The note also reportedly included Monlux’s signature, which appeared identical to his signed name on his driver’s license.
The teller responded, “are you kidding?” At which point, Monlux allegedly said, “I am not kidding, I am not playing” before placing his hands in his waistband, gesturing as if a concealed handgun.
The teller then gave him money, which included nine bills of bait money, a means for identifying money taken using prerecorded serial numbers. No details were released on the amount of nonbait money taken during the incident, however, the bait money, according to the affidavit, totaled $400.
Monlux then allegedly fled on foot and went to a McDonald’s restaurant, located north and across the highway from the bank. There, the affidavit states, he solicited a “witness” for a ride to the KailuaKona Wal-Mart in exchange for a $50 bill, which happened to be one of the bait bills. He also reportedly left in the bathroom of the fast-food eatery a pair of green athletic shoes, clothing and prescription medications.
The driver, who would later identify Monlux in a police photo lineup, dropped him off at the Wal-Mart and saw him then enter a taxi.
At about 5 p.m. the next day, Jan. 4, after receiving a tip from the public, police and federal agents arrested Monlux inside the north terminal of Kona International Airport. A search of his carry-on bag located a wallet containing a wad of cash that included a $100 bill from the bait money, according to the affidavit.
While being interviewed by police, Monlux said a family member from Puna gave the money to him a day before the alleged robbery, but he could not explain why he possessed the $100 bait bill.
Monlux also told investigators the signature on the demand note was forged and he was being framed, according to the affidavit. In addition, he said the bag found at the McDonald’s containing his prescription medication and other items was taken when he went outside to have a cigarette while at the restaurant.
Prior to his recent arrest, Monlux was arrested in June 2016 for allegedly passing a handwritten bomb threat to a teller at the Bank of Hawaii branch inside the Hilo Safeway store, after which he was charged with two counts of terroristic threatening. Those charges were dropped after a judge found him unfit to proceed based on an evaluation by the state Department of Health.
The American Savings Bank branch in Kealakekua.