Hidden: On the trail of a bank robber
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Roy Plummer committed at least 14 armed robberies before being caught by the FBI. He spent more than eight years in prison for his crimes.
When Kathy married Roy in October 2000, she believed he had been wrongly imprisoned and this was her chance at happiness. Little did she know her husband would resume his life of crime and continue on a path that would lead to his violent end ...
"Always trying to look good financially. Working hard. - appointments."
"Be honest. Don't always try to look good to everyone."
"Have no regrets. Be sorry for nothing you may have done. To change the past endangers the future, in fact or in thought. It's life. Wake up and smell the thorns.
"Never worry about me. Fifty years went by in the blink of an eye. It was wasted so much, but there are a few fond memories to take with me. Have no regrets and cherish your life."
- Notes found by police in Roy Plummer's car after his suicide.
On a sunny July day in 2006, Kathy Plummer was on a road to hell.
Roy Plummer, drunk and enraged, was driving his ex-wife through Wetzel County.
They had planned to go hiking that day. As she got ready, Kathy asked Roy if there was any way she could be included on his dental plan.
He told her he didn't have a dental plan anymore because he no longer worked at InfoCision, a call center in Clarksburg. He said he was fired over a month ago.
"I really became angry. Things went haywire," Kathy said. "It was all the lies again."
At the start of their marriage, Kathy said she wanted to make every moment special for her husband because of the time he spent in prison.
"I grieved for him," she said. "Think about someone you love dearly being in a prison cell for something they didn't commit."
But soon, he was disappearing for 10 or 12 hours at a time. Kathy suspected he was having an affair. The couple got a divorce in 2005, though still lived together as husband and wife. Roy told her the divorce was for financial reasons.
Roy was very difficult when it came to money. When they were first married, he didn't contribute financially, though he was working. Later, he insisted that Kathy give him a portion of her paycheck.
"I didn't want another failed marriage," she said. "I didn't want another abandonment.... I loved him, but I hated him for his lies."
Immoral but not illegal
When Roy admitted he no longer worked at InfoCision, Kathy ran out to search his car to find out where he had been going for hours each day. Inside she found a bag containing a sweatshirt, bandana, gloves and sunglasses.
"I didn't have a chance to go through the rest of the car. I was a little bit scared, thinking, 'What the hell is this,'" she said.
Kathy said it didn't occur to her that her husband might be robbing banks. She still believed that he had been wrongly imprisoned for robbing banks in the 1980s.
"I could see him doing something maybe immoral because he was good looking, but not illegal," Kathy said.
Kathy brought the bag into the house, where Roy was waiting for a confrontation.
He said he used the gear for hiking, and then threw the bag down the steps.
"Are you ready to go for the goddamn drive or not?" he said.
With Roy behind the wheel and drinking, they headed west.
"He's telling me about how it was so humiliating for him to tell me he lost his job," she said. "He was enraged by it."
Roy drove along a small country road in Wetzel County, looking for cell phone reception. When he found a spot, he told Kathy to call her boys. Kathy tried to grab the keys to the car. Roy hit her in the face.
"He told me to tell them goodbye," Kathy said. "He snapped. He was a totally different man. He was grabbing the steering wheel, grabbing his head, screaming, 'The pain, the pain.' He kept beating himself in the head."
Kathy called her two kids and assured them they had just gone for a ride and that everything would be OK. When she hung up the phone, Roy led her to the back of the car.
"There was a rifle in the trunk," she said. "It was my son's. I bought it for hunting."
Kathy told Roy if he killed her police could trace it back to him, either through the cell phone or because of receipts she had thrown out the car window.
"Then he started stomping around," she said. "He was losing his mind."
Roy told Kathy to get back in the car. He put the rifle away and starting driving back to Bridgeport.
"I just sat there very quiet. He's driving like a maniac," she said.
Later that evening, Roy left and stayed away for months. He showed up on Oct. 13 - six years to the day since they were married.
'It's easy to fool people'
Roy Plummer loved his job at InfoCision. Losing it crushed him, said his friend Mike Davis, a fellow supervisor at the center.
"I always thought [he] was much better at the job than I was," Davis said. "As far as the numbers went, I was the people motivator type. He was the number cruncher."
After he lost his job, he occasionally stopped at Davis' house to talk.
"It was just like night and day, the way he changed. He just had no self respect anymore," Davis said. "You could just hear in his voice that he was messed up over it all."
Plummer told Davis he started working for a company that sold cleaning supplies to schools all over West Virginia.
One day Plummer took Davis to a burger joint in Fairmont.
"He looked right at me," Davis recalled. "He said, 'Let me tell you something Mike, you're a good friend of mine. A lot of people are not who you think they are. It's easy to fool people.' "
Another conversation turned darker.
"I've had four real good friends in my entire lifetime," Davis recalled Plummer saying. "I consider you one of them, Mike. Three of them committed suicide. You are the only one that's still alive, that I can come talk to about things."
"Hey, all right buddy," Davis said. "I'm not going to commit suicide."
"I'll tell you one thing. That's how I'm going out," Plummer said.
"How? What will you do?"
"I'll probably end up shooting myself."
Plummer told Davis about the bank robberies in the '80s and hinted that he had started robbing again.
"He said there was something in him that triggered him, that made him do it," Davis said. "It was like a fix or a drug."
"You ever get something in your head you want to do so bad you can't stand it? You've got to do it," Plummer said. "When I get it in me, I have to do it. I have to do it and nothing is going to stop me. I feel bad. I wouldn't hurt anyone."
"You have a gun," Davis, an ex-police officer, told him. "If you have a gun, you're going to use it. If you pull a gun, you're willing to hurt someone."
"Well, maybe not," Plummer said. "You might not know what you're saying there, Mike. Maybe I want to use the gun so someone would stop me from doing this. If someone else does this first, then I won't have to do it. It would be the best thing for me."
A detail-oriented robber
But in the first known robbery Plummer committed after resuming his life of crime, he did hurt someone.
On Feb. 6, 2007, Plummer robbed the Washington Federal Bank in Washington, Pa., said FBI agent Patrick McGlennon, who has recently been working on the Plummer case.
As Plummer left the bank with a bag full of money, an ex-Marine who had been in the drive-thru tried to stop him, McGlennon said.
Plummer wrestled with the man and ended up shooting him in the leg, McGlennon said.
"The wound wasn't life-threatening. It was superficial, and the bullet is still in his leg," McGlennon said. "He was clearly not trying to kill the guy. But he was desperate enough to disable someone trying to stop him from getting what he wanted to get."
Plummer's next known robbery was on Nov. 30, 2007. He robbed the Sewickley Savings Bank in Robinson Township in Allegheny County, Pa., McGlennon said.
Plummer was a very detail-oriented bank robber, McGlennon said.
"I don't think he ever approached a bank he hadn't scouted out in the past," he said.
The FBI is sending out details of Plummer's robberies to other branch offices, looking for other unsolved cases where Plummer may have been the culprit.
"There could be unsolved robberies attributable to him that we are not aware of," McGlennon said. "Any time you have a guy this prolific, you can guarantee that guy has stuff out there he doesn't want you to know about."
'I could make you happy'
After robbing the Washington Federal Bank, Plummer told Davis how a guy "had tried to play hero on him." Davis never knew when or where any of the robberies were located. He wouldn't let Plummer tell him.
Plummer told Davis he had a hard time getting away from the man, that the guy hurt him a little.
"See, you would shoot someone," Davis told him.
"I wouldn't kill someone though, I wouldn't," Plummer said.
It was around this time Plummer also told Davis what he did with some of the money from the robberies. Plummer said he hid some of it in the Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest. Plummer said he hid it away for later in life, so his kids could go to college.
Davis said he is certain Plummer buried money in other parks he frequented in West Virginia. Plummer told him he liked to go to the woods after he committed a robbery.
"That's where he would go to get serenity. To make his peace," Davis said. "He would go there and walk and walk. Maybe he was talking to God."
"I didn't ask where," Davis said. "I didn't want to be put in that position. I didn't want to know where anything was."
Plummer asked Davis if he would take care of the money if something happened to him. Davis refused.
"No. I don't want to know about any crimes, any places. You can tell me about the bank robberies. But I don't want to know where," Davis told him. "Then that puts me as an accessory. I can't go that far with this. Then I have to call the police. Then I'm almost like an accomplice. I can't be that."
"I could make you happy if you want me to, Mike," Plummer said.
"No, I don't want to know where there is any damn money," Davis said.
'Waiting for me to get the money'
The FBI believes it is more likely Plummer gambled most of the money away and used the rest to pay bills.
"You are looking at a guy who owes almost $100,000 in restitution. There are multiple past due and collection notices to insurance companies, to utilities. So here is a guy who has trouble paying his bills," McGlennon said. "I think a portion was used to keep things off his back. I don't think there is any huge amount of money out there that he would have access to in lean times. I don't think he stashed any large sums to see them through. I really don't."
If there is any money stashed away, the FBI doesn't have any evidence of it, McGlennon said.
Police found lottery tickets and tickets from the Wheeling dog track in his car, McGlennon said.
"I think personally, it was the lifestyle. It was spent as quick as he got it," McGlennon said. "Most people who rob banks continue to rob because they spend the money. You have very few who put it away for retirement."
Davis figures the FBI is watching him because of his friendship with Plummer. He said he hasn't been interviewed by them but would be happy to do so.
"I figure they are waiting for me to go get the money," he said. "If they want to talk to me, I'd love to talk to them. As far as insights, I wouldn't let him tell me amounts. I knew it was in the thousands."
Reach Gary Harki at firstname.lastname@example.org or 348-5163.