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Lockeford man will be tried for bank robbery

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Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:05 am, Thu Feb 3, 2011.

A judge Wednesday decided a Lockeford man accused of bank robbery should stand trial for the crime, but on only three of the six original charges brought by the district attorney’s office. The ruling came at the end of a preliminary hearing.

Robert Daniel Mehrten, 52, will face felony charges of second degree robbery, making terrorist threats and falsely reporting a bomb for allegedly robbing the Lockeford Bank of the West on Jan. 13. If convicted, Mehrten could face up to seven years in state prison.

The timeframe of the robbery was further complicated Wednesday by a witness who saw the robber fleeing the scene around the same time Mehrten was seen on video surveillance at a Clements bar.

Detective Steven McCulloch of the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department testified that the janitor of the post office near Bank of the West said he saw a man matching the description of the robber fleeing at approximately 9:30 a.m. The robber, who has been described as a 50- to 60-year-old white man wearing a green jacket and straw hat, was rapidly removing clothing and dropped his hat as he walked past, the janitor told sheriff’s officials.

Two bank employees who testified in the hearing said they saw the straw hat on the pavement behind the post office between 10 to 15 minutes after the robbery.

McCulloch also testified that video surveillance from the Old Corner Saloon in Clements, approximately four miles from the bank, showed Mehrten at the bar at 9:39 a.m.

The straw hat in question has been submitted into evidence, McCulloch said, and is being tested for DNA.

The two bank employees who testified during the hearing, Jessica Davies and Stephanie Martinez, said they selected Mehrten out of a printed lineup with six mug shots. However, McCulloch said a third employee, who was standing behind the teller being robbed, selected a different person when showed the same lineup.

McCulloch further testified that Mehrten became the prime suspect after another Sheriff’s investigator saw the bank surveillance tape and recognized the suspect as Mehrten.

Mehrten will be arraigned at 8 a.m. on Feb. 16 in San Joaquin Superior Court.

Contact reporter Fernando Gallo at fernando@lodinews.com.

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