Mo­tive for crime spree un­clear

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Robert Marchant

Shortly be­fore sen­tenc­ing the man dubbed “the beefcake ban­dit” to more than seven years in prison, the judge pre­sid­ing in U. S. District Court said he could not re­call a de­fen­dant like David By­ers be­fore.

“Un­like many of the de­fen­dants who come be­fore me — or any ac­tu­ally — you, by all ac­counts, had a good child­hood,” Judge

Michael Shea told By­ers be­fore de­liv­er­ing the penalty for a to­tal of five rob­beries — three of them in Green­wich — and a cross­coun­try po­lice pur­suit that en­dan­gered the lives of mo­torists and law- en­force­ment in three states.

The 35- year- old erst­while model also pre­sented a co­nun­drum to his de­fense lawyer. “Mr. By­ers presents a real mys­tery,” at­tor­ney Moira Buck­ley said at his sen­tenc­ing. “It’s sort of con­fus­ing. There is a sense of scratch­ing your head — how did this hap­pen?”

By­ers’ de­scent into crime, lawyers said, was at odds with the early ad­van­tages he en­joyed — a sta­ble fam­ily, a de­cent ed­u­ca­tion and good looks that landed him work as a part- time model.

He grew up in a work­ing­class house­hold with two long- mar­ried par­ents in south­ern California, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers, and “din­ner was al­ways on the ta­ble” when he came home from school. It was not the usual re­sume for rob­bery and other felony- level crimes.

The ad­mit­ted bank robber went to pri­vate schools, and while he was not a suc­cess aca­dem­i­cally, he learned a trade in his fa­ther’s auto re­pair shop and com­pleted his ed­u­ca­tion in auto me­chan­ics in com­mu­nity col­lege. His fa­ther now works as a de­ten­tion of­fi­cer for a county sher­iff’s depart­ment in Ari­zona. ( He did not re­turn calls seek­ing com­ment this week.) By­ers’ two sis­ters, one of whom served in the Coast Guard, cur­rently work as nurses.

His crime spree was strange in other ways, as well. Ob­servers were puz­zled by how By­ers com­bined vul­ner­a­bil­ity and men­ace, bravado and fool- ish­ness, stealth and sen­ti­men­tal­ity, in one heav­ily tat­tooed, mus­cled physique.

Though he came from a solid fam­ily, tak­ing part in Boy Scout ac­tiv­i­ties, By­ers never set­tled down on a con­ven­tional path. Af­ter high school, he went to live in San Diego, and things started go­ing wrong af­ter he left his par­ents’ home. “He just couldn’t get it to­gether af­ter high school,” his lawyer said.

By­ers be­gan liv­ing out of his car, do­ing odd jobs in bar­tend­ing or fit­ness in­struc­tion in his early adult­hood. He also be­gan pick­ing up a crim­i­nal record. Be­sides two al­co­hol- re­lated driv­ing of­fenses in California, By­ers was also get­ting ar­rested for prop­erty crimes. In Los An­ge­les, he was con­victed in 2002 for bur­glary, and in 2003, grand theft. By­ers did a few months be­hind bars in California.

There was some­thing else about By­ers that didn’t add up. Born with chis­eled fea­tures and pierc­ing blue eyes, he did some part- time mod­el­ing, show­ing off his sculpted body on so­cial me­dia and the cov­ers of ro­mance nov­els. His mod­el­ing ca­reer was def­i­nitely not the job de­scrip­tion most felons ac­quire.

But By­ers made no money from his steamy poses and sul­try gazes for the cam­era. A scheme with two other part­ners to open a gym in south­ern California, his dream, went bust in 2016, and By­ers was again broke and home­less.

In the spring of 2017, By­ers came to the East Coast. He wanted to rekin­dle a ro­man­tic at­tach­ment with a woman he had pre­vi­ously dated, who was then liv­ing on Ma­son Street in cen­tral Green­wich. He was bar­tend­ing at the Stan­dard Ho­tel in New York City, then work­ing as a stock­ing clerk for Whole Foods on Long Is­land. He was also liv­ing out of his car, ac­com­pa­nied by a white pit bull puppy named Dante. The grocery store let him keep the dog in his car while he worked, court pa­pers stated.

Then By­ers went in for more dan­ger­ous pur­suits, and for rea­sons that have been dif­fi­cult for By­ers or any­one else to ex­plain, he started pulling rob­beries. Ac­cord­ing to a con­fes­sion he made to an FBI agent in San Diego shortly af­ter his ar­rest last May, he was in­creas­ingly des­per­ate for money, “and just went for it,” seem­ingly with no ad­vance prepa­ra­tion.

Af­ter two rob­beries on Long Is­land, By­ers came to Con­necti­cut in April 2017, check­ing into the Ho­tel Zero De­grees in Stam­ford — and pay­ing cash for his room. He sent pictures of cash that he had stolen to the Green­wich woman he was pur­su­ing. He also be­gan look­ing to get more cash — hold­ing up a Citgo sta­tion in Cos Cob and then a Chase bank — twice — in River­side.

His crime spree was un­usual and con­tra­dic­tory. By­ers of­ten blun­dered, us­ing his real name on sev­eral oc­ca­sions to or­der ser­vices or ap­ply for jobs, even af­ter it was likely that po­lice were onto him.

But By­ers could crafty in other ways. He stole li­cense plates to put on the ve­hi­cle he was driv­ing, ev­i­dently try­ing to avoid de­tec­tion. The robber told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he stud­ied traf­fic pat­terns around the venues he was about to rob, and de­ter­mined “what’s easy in, what’s easy out.” He timed the holdups when few peo­ple were around. He could be cool- headed, as well, such as when he pre­tended to be a valet to steal a car from a restau­rant in Port Chester, N. Y., shortly af­ter Green­wich po­lice chased him all over town on foot.

By­ers was cer­tainly bold — he ran across In­ter­state 95 traf­fic in Green­wich, and eluded cap­ture three times us­ing high- speed get­aways and driv­ing reck­lessly. Ari­zona state troop­ers clocked him do­ing 91 mph when they tried to cap­ture him near Yuma City. His ex­ten­sive gym train­ing ap­pears to have given him the abil­ity to run hard from po­lice pur­suers on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

There was bold­ness mixed with reck­less­ness, in other ways, such as hav­ing a beer at a ho­tel bar just a block away from the Chase bank he had robbed twice that week. It was in the J House park­ing lot that By­ers eluded Green­wich po­lice and be­gan the cross­coun­try man­hunt that ended last May in the park­ing lot of a con­ve­nience store in San Diego.

By­ers also showed a sen­ti­men­tal side. Even as he was on the run from po­lice, he called a lo­cal tow- truck oper­a­tor, who had trans­ported his car ear­lier that day for a re­pair job, and asked him to look af­ter his dog Dante.

And while he used cars in a highly dan­ger­ous and reck­less man­ner, By­ers never used a real weapon in his rob­beries and said “please” to bank tell­ers when de­mand­ing money. He painted a toy gun black for his last bank job, and used a tele­vi­sion re­mote con­trol to sim­u­late a pis­tol grip for the other rob­beries. He fought back tears dur­ing his sen­tenc­ing in Hart­ford.

By­ers ap­pears a mys­tery even to him­self, as he ad­mit­ted to the judge when he was al­lowed to make a state­ment this week in U. S. District Court. Buck­ley, his de­fense lawyer, said there ap­peared to be an un­di­ag­nosed mental health is­sue, specif­i­cally bipo­lar disor­der, and al­co­hol abuse, that had not been treated prop­erly. By­ers said he agreed, and he told the judge he felt there was much about his life and his be­hav­ior that he did not un­der­stand.

Stand­ing be­fore Judge Shea, strug­gling to make him­self heard as his voice qua­vered with strong emo­tion, he said, “I’m try­ing to un­der­stand what the doc­tor said. It’s a lot to take in.”

By­ers will have the next seven years to take it in.

Michael Stokes Pho­tog­ra­phy / Con­trib­uted photo

David By­ers, who be­came known as the ‘ beefcake ban­dit’ af­ter a se­ries of rob­beries, in­clud­ing three in Green­wich, in a mod­el­ing pub­lic­ity photo.

Michael Stokes Pho­tog­ra­phy / Con­trib­uted photo

A photo of David By­ers taken by Michael Stokes to pub­li­cize By­ers’ mod­el­ing ca­reer.

KFMB Chan­nel 8 San Diego / Con­trib­uted photo

A tele­vi­sion news image of David By­ers af­ter his ar­rest in San Diego in May 2017.

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