BRATTLEBORO — A suspect in the People's United Bank robbery told police the bomb threat wasn't his idea.
Matthew Martin, 31, of Weathersfield, said he was going "to rob a different bank in Brattleboro but there were a bunch of cops there," according to the Brattleboro Police Department.
"Martin said when that fell through he was in communication with his getaway driver (someone other than the person he came to Brattleboro with) to get ready," police said. "Martin said he went into People's United Bank on Main Street dressed like a woman. Martin said he was wearing sneakers, tights, a stuffed bra, purple hooded sweatshirt, a wig, glasses and make-up."
Martin is being held without bail at Southern State Correctional Facility after pleading not guilty Monday to assault and robbery, larceny from person and putting a hoax explosive device in a building. All three felony counts each carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
On Dec. 14, officers responded to the bank after receiving a 911 call reporting the robbery. The suspect had left a suspicious package that appeared to be a bomb, an affidavit stated. The suspect was described as a white female with a slender build standing at 5 feet 5 inches tall.
"The robber demanded money from the teller, displayed a suspicious package, displayed a gun and after receiving the money fled the bank in an unknown direction of travel," police said. "Bank personnel were evacuated and relocated to a secure off-site location. A safety perimeter was set up both within the immediate and surrounding areas of the bank."
The Vermont State Police Bomb Squad responded to the scene and a trooper determined the device resembled an improvised explosive device or IED.
The device, described to police by a teller, was carried in a grayish Walmart bag which was rolled down to expose a clayish "glob" that had a cell phone embedded in it. The robber allegedly told the teller not to hit the alarm or the device "will go off" and to give up all the cash in the drawer. Another teller said she was terrified after seeing the device. Martin told police the gun was a BB gun.
"Black wires appeared to connect the cell phone to the clay-like material and wrapped around this material. The cell phone display was covered with this clay-like material making it difficult to determine if the phone was powered on. It was later determined the phone was not powered on," police said. "The Bomb Squad subsequently determined there was no detonator or energetic material, however the device did resemble an IED and was intended to resemble as such due to the fabrication and material used."
Police said $3,791 in cash was stolen from the bank but Martin reported getting $4,200. Surveillance video from a local business showed the robber running across Flat Street and entering a red Cadillac sedan. A probation officer indicated he believed the female robber in photographs released to the public was Martin. A detective from Springfield later said the same.
A bank robbery included a similar getaway car in Loudon, N.H.
"In the Loudon robbery, Martin was positively identified as the robber in that case," police said. "A female that wanted to remain anonymous said that Martin has a significant heroin debt to a Puerto Rican male from Massachusetts."
The woman told police the man who Martin owes money will kill Martin if he doesn't pay the debt he owes. The woman also heard the man will "off" Martin even if the debt is paid off.