Try­ing to get help, heart­bro­ken 74-year-old wid­ower robbed a bank

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Eileen Kel­ley

This bank heist was weird from the start.

The rob­ber wanted money but wouldn’t take the $2,000. He scolded the teller, say­ing he’d only ac­cept $1,100. Noth­ing more, noth­ing less. After leav­ing the West Boca Wells Fargo, he didn’t even keep the money.

The next day, when the deputies tracked Sandy Hawkins down, he didn’t put up a fight. He showed them the note that he had for­got­ten to hand the bank teller. “Give me $1,100.00 Now. No Alarms,” read the note, scrawled on a tat­tered de­posit slip. “Hope to get caught.”

Hawkins, 74, of West Boca, re­sem­bles Santa with his red sus­penders and his stark white hair and beard. He re­cently opened up for the first time in an in­ter­view with the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

He said he can’t pin­point ex­actly why he robbed the bank last month. He fig­ures it was an im­pul­sive act of in­dis­cre­tion — driven by the need to have a distractio­n from the death of his wife and ev­ery­thing else that he has lost.

Hawkins had a solid mid­dle-class life ever since com­ing to the United States for work from Canada in the 1990s.

By the mid-1990s, Hawkins was a main­te­nance su­per­vi­sor at a Deerfield Beach hous­ing com­plex and his so­cial life re­volved around an­nual trips to Mex­ico and meet­ing up with reg­u­lars at a bar each night after work.

A woman named Linda also was a reg­u­lar at the Muddy Wa­ters bar in Deerfield

Beach. When her hus­band died, Hawkins got up the nerve to ask her on a date.

Yes, she said, let’s go for a walk on the beach in Deerfield. They drank pricey cham­pagne and nib­bled on shrimp. He was smit­ten. At the age of 52, Hawkins mar­ried for the first time. They vowed to never go to bed an­gry and to kiss each morn­ing and each night.

Their life to­gether went by in a flash.

In Septem­ber last year, nearly four months after they cel­e­brated their 22nd wed­ding an­niver­sary, Linda told her hus­band she had pain in her side.

With an­other Mex­ico va­ca­tion com­ing up, Hawkins said he didn’t want to take any chances and took her to the emer­gency room. After she was ad­mit­ted, doc­tors told him she’d un­dergo tests and that he should come back the fol­low­ing day, he said.

Hawkins said he fell to his knees when he learned Linda Hawkins had blood cancer and there was noth­ing any­one could do be­cause the cancer had at­tacked her ma­jor or­gans.

His wife was ad­mit­ted into the hospi­tal on a Tues­day. By Thurs­day she was in a coma. Then Fri­day, Hawkins said his wife shot up from the hospi­tal bed and said, “Where’s my good­night kiss?” And then she died.

He said he has never re­cov­ered.

And so he said he left it all: His rented mo­bile home, his fur­nish­ings and a $21-an-hour job at an air con­di­tion­ing com­pany.

From May un­til Au­gust, Hawkins said he said he slept in his Hyundai Sante Fe in the Wal­mart park­ing lot in West Boca. In Septem­ber, his trusty shel­ter was re­pos­sessed.

An ac­quain­tance let him stay at his home for a while.

Hawkins was liv­ing not far from State Road 7, the main road by where the Wells Fargo is sit­u­ated along with many restau­rants and auto stores.

So he woke up one Mon­day morn­ing and scrib­bled a terse mes­sage on a note, plan­ning to hold up the bank, he said.

At 11:32 a.m. Nov. 18, Hawkins en­tered the bank, wear­ing glasses and a “Make Amer­ica Great Again” Tshirt, ac­cord­ing to the Palm Beach County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

He asked the teller for $1,100. “This is a rob­bery, I have a weapon,” he said, ac­cord­ing to the Palm Beach County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. Though in re­al­ity, he did not have a weapon.

The teller be­gan count­ing the cash: “$100, $200, $300,” of­fer­ing $2,000. Hawkins told the teller that was too much. And so the teller counted over, this time stop­ping at $1,100.

Sandy Hawkins, cash in hand, walked out of the bank with the holdup note still in his pocket. He would show the note to the deputies later.

Hawkins said he walked across the street and while cut­ting through the hedges, the stack of cash from the bank be­came en­snared in the hedges. Hawkins said he left the cash there and con­tin­ued to walk to a house where he was stay­ing about a 10-minute walk away.

Hawkins was caught the fol­low­ing day on Nov. 19. after po­lice viewed sur­veil­lance footage with own­ers of a bar neigh­bor­ing the bank. They rec­og­nized Hawkins, giv­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors his name.

This was Hawkins’s first ar­rest.

Hawkins spent seven days in a Palm Beach County Jail on an un­armed rob­bery charge be­fore his public de­fender was able to get him re­leased on home de­ten­tion at a fa­cil­ity in Delray Beach.

Hawkins’ pend­ing. court case is

EILEEN KEL­LEY/SUN SENTINEL

Sandy Hawkins says he lived a happy, solid life un­til Septem­ber 2018, when his wife of 22 years died un­ex­pect­edly. In Novem­ber, he walked into a Wells Fargo bank branch and robbed it, the Palm Beach County Sher­iff’s Of­fice said.

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