SPPD: Back-to-back armed robberies ends with arrest, suspect confession
(Story Updated Monday July 14, 2014 1:15 p.m.)
An Arizona couple was arrested Friday in the historic Downtown in connection with two armed robberies of small liquor stores that occurred the night before, according to Santa Paula Police.
Detective Allen Macias said the crimes “occurred within 10 minutes of each other... “
The first robbery was reported about 9 p.m. Thursday, July 10 at Jue’s Liquor, 911 W. Telegraph Road near Sheppard Road.
Upon arrival at the small liquor store SPPD Officers were told a man wearing a black bandanna over his face showed a handgun and demanded money from the cash register. Once he obtained an unspecified amount of cash, he ran off.
Macias said the clerk told police the suspect was described as being dark skinned, approximately 5’10” tall, 250 lbs, wearing a black shirt with white print on the back and black pants.
While officers were investigating that incident, a security company notified the SPPD that a panic alarm had been activated at O.K. Liquor, 717 W. Harvard Blvd.
Officers found a second robbery had occurred and the owner of O.K. Liquor provided police with video surveillance showing a black male with a shaved head, wearing glasses and holding a large, black semi-automatic weapon who demanded money from the register. Again, once he obtained cash he fled on foot, headed north on Elm Street.
Macias said police patrol personnel “All saw the video,” and on Friday at about 2 p.m. Officer David Keathley observed a man resembling the suspect in the vehicle exit a store in the 100 block of South 10th Street and hop in a vehicle driven by a female.
Keathley followed as the vehicle turned left onto East Main Street, and in the 900 block he pulled it over, blocking the compact car with his cruiser as he called for backup.
The driver and her passenger were removed from the car at gunpoint.
Macias said because it was found that the driver, Cathy Pye, 48, of Phoenix, Arizona, a former resident of Santa Paula, was on probation for a previous criminal offense, a search was immediately conducted of the vehicle.
“In the trunk officers found an UZI handgun,” as well as clothing matching the description of what the robber had worn the previous evening.
Macias said one of the victims identified the man, Lesley Joseph Taylor, 49, of Phoenix, Arizona, as the man who had robbed the liquor store.
Taylor was arrested on suspicion of two counts of robbery, possession of a short-barreled firearm, possession of a large-capacity magazine and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He was transported to Ventura County Jail.
Pye was arrested on suspicion of being a driver who allowed an occupant to carry a firearm; she was booked and released.
Macias said once Taylor was taken into custody, “He makes a spontaneous statement, ‘She had nothing to do with this, it was all me... ‘ And later when I was interviewing him he admitted to both robberies, said he did not intend to hurt anybody but needed the money to get back to Arizona.”
The manhunt had been an aggressive one: “All patrol personnel were out looking for this guy and I picked it up and ran with patrol and the chief got involved... and in less than 20 hours two cases were investigated, a suspect was arrested, the gun recovered and a confession obtained.”
The arrest said Police Chief Steve McLean, “Was as good as I’ve ever seen... we had a guy with an UZI that robs two liquor stores back-to-back,” and escapes.
“But in the meantime our Officer Keathley spots and follows him and then pulls him over,” starting the chain of events that led to Taylor’s arrest.
McLean believes that when the suspect was spotted, “He was casing stores in the Main Street area to come back later and rob them... his arrest was a tremendous piece of police work especially as he gave a full confession.”
The situation could easily have escalated: “Our suspect said he didn’t intend to hurt anyone and that might be so, but we also have clerks with guns - even under the best of circumstances accidents can happen. Officer Keathley might have prevented someone from hurt or killed... it was just a good piece of police work.”
A dog that was with the couple at the time they were arrested was taken to the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center and housed temporarily.