New Castle News

August 15, 2013

Story Update: Neighbors identify bank robbery suspect

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — State police said vigilant neighbors identified the man they believe robbed a bank in Hickory Township Monday.

Troopers yesterday arrested Norman Clifford Lowe, 57, of Eastbrook Apartments after searching his car and living quarters with a warrant Tuesday evening. He is being held in the Lawrence County jail on $100,000 bond.

Lowe is accused of entering First National Bank’s Laurel Branch on Harlansburg Road just before 11:30 a.m. and approaching a teller. He put a rectangular device on the counter and told the teller it was an explosive. He also held a round device he said was a detonator, and ordered her to give him money or he would detonate the bomb, according to police.

Lowe provided an empty plastic zipper bag to the teller, who placed an undisclosed amount of paper money in various denominations in it, she told police. The man then ran out of the building with the money, leaving the device behind.

The employees were instructed to leave the building immediately and the bank was closed for the rest of the day.

The Allegheny County Bomb Squad used a robot to remove the item. Bomb technicians determined it was a Dell computer A/C adapter with the power cord cut off. The device was wrapped in gray duct tape and transparent tape, according to police.

The teller told police the suspect’s face was covered with tan pantyhose and he carried a messenger bag over his shoulder.

Surveillance photos show the robber walking into the bank wearing a blazer and a Cleveland Indians baseball cap with a Chief Wahoo logo on the front and fabric hiding his face.

A man who was using the ATM drive-through at the bank that morning told police he had seen a man walking along Harlansburg Road about 11:25 a.m. The witness parked near the east end of a nearby convenience store lot and saw the man go into the bank. When the witness came out of the store, he saw the man leaving the bank, pulling stockings off his face and adjusting his hat, he told police.

Officers received a tip from Lowe’s neighbors after the surveillance photos had been made public. One neighbor reported seeing Lowe the day of the robbery and said he fit the description. They said he had left the apartment that morning in a red Dodge Charger and arrived back shortly before noon.

One said he had seen Lowe trying to unlock the apartment building door but his hand was shaking and he was having difficulty getting the key into the lock. The neighbor said he had pushed the door open for him and Lowe rushed inside and tripped going through the doorway. He said Lowe had a backpack over one shoulder.

Another neighbor said Lowe is unemployed and had been searching for work.

State police in New Castle and an FBI agent in the bureau’s Cranberry office searched Lowe’s apartment and car and seized some of the cash — $1,991 — Lowe allegedly stole from the bank. Police also confiscated a blue Cleveland Indians cap, pantyhose, a partial roll of duct tape, messenger bags and clothing.

A friend of Lowe’s who lives in the apartment building told police Lowe had dropped her at work at 7 a.m. Monday and picked her up at 4:30 p.m. She said Lowe had given her $2,000 Monday afternoon and another $1,000 on Tuesday. She said he told her he had gotten the money from an escrow account from a house sale.

Police said they interviewed Lowe after his arrest and he told them he had won that money while gambling at a casino in West Virginia.

Lowe is charged with two counts of robbery and one count each of facsimile weapons of mass destruction, terroristic threats, theft, receiving stolen property and disorderly conduct.

He was arraigned before District Judge Scott McGrath. His preliminary hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 22.

(Email: dwachter