Free Lance-Star reporter Robyn Sidersky covers Caroline County government and schools. You can reach her at 540/374-5413 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow coverage on Facebook or Twitter as well.
Mom says the man in Mr. Fuel video is her son
RICHMOND—-Deliberations will begin Wednesday morning in the case of two men charged in a botched May 2010 robbery where a Good Samaritan was shot four times at a Caroline County gas station.
Richmond residents Warren Harold Brown and Winston Sylvester Oliver II are charged in federal court with conspiracy to commit robbery, attempted robbery affecting commerce and two counts of using a firearm during a crime.
A verdict was expected this afternoon, but U.S. District Chief Judge James R. Spencer sent the three men and nine women of the jury home after hearing about six hours of testimony today.
Danielle Oliver, a Spotsylvania resident and estranged wife of one of the defendants, testified today that her husband had been planning to rob the Mr. Fuel gas station in the Carmel Church area ever since November 2008 when she worked there.
She said she heard and was involved in many conversations about Oliver’s plans to get someone to help him commit the crime. She said she called police after she saw the video surveillance on TruTV and recognized Brown, her husband’s friend, as the gunman.
“Winston was the mastermind,” she said. “His role was to drive. He knew he would be on camera and be caught if it went bad.”
She said her husband sent her a text message the next morning after the May 8, 2010 robbery to ask if she “heard about Mr. Fuel.” But the phone was sold before police could confirm the message.
A couple from Woodford testified that Brown and Oliver visited their home two hours before the robbery and cell phone records place Oliver’s phone within 10 to 15 minutes of the gas station at 8:56 p.m., which was about 40 minutes before the robbery.
On May 8, 2010, a man entered the Mr. Fuel gas station about 9:30 p.m. displaying a gun and demanding money. He shot at the feet of a frightened female cashier, according to a surveillance video that received national attention.
A male customer, 62-year-old Theodore Edmond entered the store and saw what was going on. He grabbed two bottles of beer from the refrigerator cases at the back of the store and struck the robber in the back of the head.
The two men struggled before the robber turned and shot the man four times, striking him in the head, shoulder and the groin and butt area. Edmond, who lives in Maryland, was able to recover.
The robber fled the store by foot and got away, but lost his eyeglasses.
A forensic scientist testified today that the eyeglasses recovered from the scene had Brown’s DNA on it.
Edmond, the cashier and two other eyewitness identified Brown as the gunman in court on Monday.
A critical piece of evidence were statements made by Brown about his involvement.
According to Special Agent Scott Umphlet of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Brown admitted to committing the robbery and described the planning of the robbery attempt, his role in it and the role of a co-conspirator, who he identified as Oliver.
In a federal affidavit, “Brown stated Oliver planned and directed the entire armed robbery and provided Brown the handgun which Brown utilized during the armed robbery. Brown said that Oliver told him that he used to work at Mr. Fuel and was adamant that there were no video cameras inside, the affidavit said.
Brown, an unemployed father of three at the time, told Umphlet that he didn’t want to do it at first, but he needed money for his kids.
Brown told the special agent he was sorry for shooting Edmond.
According to Umphlet, Oliver’s alibi changed several times and he denied having any involvement in the robbery.
Neither defense attorneys presented evidence to support their clients claims of innocence, but did question the credibility and motives of some of the witnesses, which include a wife fighting for child custody, a recovering heroin addict and a convicted felon.
U.S. Prosecutor Roderick Young argued during closing arguments that the witnesses have nothing to do with what happened at Mr. Fuel.
“To find them not guilty, you’d have to conclude that everybody is mistaken,” he said before showing the surveilance video again where Edmond was shot. “Let’s not let the fact that he took four bullets at the hands of these two go unpunished.”
After court, Brown’s mother, Charlene, told reporters that she does believe that the man in the video is her son.
“I don’t want to think that he did it, but it’s out there and everything points at him,” she said. “He was a good kid. I love him very much, no matter what is going to go down, he is my son.”