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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Dustin Honken

Robber gets 41 years for ‘92 murder

A serial bank robber and protected federal witness has been sentenced to 41 years in prison for the 1992 murder of a Spokane Valley furniture store owner.

Patrick Kevin Gibson, 60, was convicted of first-degree murder of the Nov. 7, 1992, shooting death of Brian Cole, 48, at Cole's Furniture Store on East Sprague Avenue in July after a bench trial before Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

Cole was killed during a botched robbery after the gunman said he was willing to hurt Cole's wife, who was in a scooter and witnessed the murder.

The crime went unsolved for 19 years before DNA from a fake beard left at the crime scene prompted detectives to arrest Gibson, who served 12 years in federal prison for a string of bank robberies that began in 1992.

He enrolled in the federal witness protection program after helping authorities convict his former cellmate of murdering a mother and her two children in Iowa in the early 1990s. That man, Dustin Honken, is now on federal death row.

Gibson also was convicted of robbing convenience stores and raping clerks in the late 1970s, about the same time he was shot in the face by a law enforcement official during a chase in Utah.

Gibson testified a partner in his bank robberies must have reused the beard, but Eitzen concluded he was the killer and had also robbed a children's store in Coeur d'Alene hours before the murder.

The trial began in May but was delayed when prosecutors learned “America’s Most Wanted” used the hat worn by the killer when re-enacting the murder in a 1993 episode. The trial resumed after authorities tested DNA samples from host John Walsh, a retired sheriff's detective and the actor who played the killer, Spokane County native Trevor St. John.

Eitzen sentenced Gibson on Friday to 493 months in prison. His lawyers have appealed his conviction.

Past coverage:

July 20: Gibson's bravado as robber didn't help

Gibson’s bravado as robber didn’t help

In the end, Patrick Kevin Gibson's bravado as a professional bank robbery didn't exactly contribute to his defense in the 1992 murder of a Spokane Valley furniture store owner.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Etizen said he appeared to be bragging about his exploits and gave more detail than necessary when he testified at his murder trial last week. 

Gibson, 60, also didn't sway Etizen with his claims that the robbery at Cole's Furniture store that ended with the shooting death of Brian Cole was sloppy and likely done by someone other than the man who robbed a children's store in Coeur d'Alene three hours earlier.

Gibson suggested during testimony last week that the robbers were perhaps partners but initiated the heists separately - Eitzen rebuked that theory Thursday when she convicted him of Cole's murder and said the killer was the same man who robbed Teresa and Steve Brenner's store in Coeur d'Alene.

He also theorized that a man named Tim whom he'd hired to assist in bank robberies in Oregon and California in the early 1990s reused a disguise from one of the robberies to commit the Cole's Furniture Store robbery.

Gibson said Tim was one of two men secured a storage facility for him in the Portland area where he disguises and a police scanner to be used in the robberies. He also stored there a bank directory and a mailing list of all the police department sin the United States. He said he used the material to research potential small-town banks to rob. Gibson said he didn't know Tim's last name and Tim did not know his identity.

Gibson described the Cole robbery as “completely inept.”

“The store is supposed to be closed at 5 pm., so this was a spur of the moment crime,” Gibson said. “Both crimes, it's probably the only furniture store and kid's clothing sore that's ever been robbed in either town.”
Gibson described the “personnel” he hired out of Portland, Ore. to assist in the robberies.

“I used a total of eight males and four females for the operation, but only five of the males were involved in the bank robberies themselves. The other people were only involved in obtaining cars or acting as props so that I could stay in that town. Sometimes I had to stay right in the town. There was no way to get out.”

Gibson also described his involvement in the federal witness protection program, which occurred after he shared a federal prison cell with Iowa methamphetamine dealer Dustin Honken and told authorities that Honken had bragged about getting way with the murder of two confidential informants, a mother and her two young daughters. Honken is now on fedearl death row. Gibson said he became a protected witness in 1999.

“They do investigating for a year. Polygraph tests. It's very strenuous. You can't get into the witness protection program unless they verify you're telling the truth,” he said.

Gibson said he would tell the truth if he had killed Cole. He pointed to the fact that he's been diagnosed with stage 2 prostate cancer.

“I know I'm gong to die from cancer,” Gibson said. “I've almost always pled guilty to everything I have done. If I did this crime, I would give the Cole family some closure. I would admit to it and I would give them closure, because they need closure.”

On cross-examination, Gibson told Deputy Prosecutor Tony Hazel he “learned his lesson” about robbing small places after he robbed a Taco's John's in Portland and a gas station in Carterville, Nevada. (He and his partner also raped two clerks.) Gibson said he only targeted bank in towns with no law enforcement presence whatsoever. Coeur d'Alene had a police department so it “wouldn't qualify,” Gibson said.

Hazel pointed out that Gibson had been laid off just before Cole was murdered and was angry at society. He'd only started planning bank robberies and didn't successful rob one until December 1992. Before then, he'd only targeted small stores like gas stations.

Gibson said he wasn't proud of the robberies but he made about $840,000 in cash and more than $1 million in traveler's checks that he destroyed.

“The FBI said I was one of the most successful bank robbers going, sophisticated bank robbers operating at that time, but I regret it,” Gibson said.

After Eitzen convicted him Wednesday of first-degree murder, as the now convicted killer walked down the third floor hallways of the Spokane County Courthouse, a reporter asked him: “Patrick, did you do it?”

“No I did not,” Gibson replied. “Do I look 5-8?”

Cole's wife, Michele Cole, had described the killer as being about 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9. She said she recognized a scar on Gibson's face when she saw a picture of him in 2011. That scar is from being shot by a sheriff's deputy in Utah in 1998. The bullet went though Gibson's face.er it c

Gibson was arrested last year after his DNA was found on a piece of beard worn by Cole's killer.

His bench trial began in May but was delayed after prosecutors learned “America's Most Wanted” host John Walsh and a TV actor handled the killer's actual hat in a 1993 reenactment of the Cole murder

Authorities obtained DNA samples from Walsh, actor Trevor St. John and tried sheriff's Detective Mark Henderson and compared it to the hat. Doing so helped forensic analysts determine that the chance of the DNA on the hat not belonging to Gibson was one in 10 million.

Accused killer gives riveting testimony

In what longtime Spokane County court officials described as riveting testimony, accused killer Patrick Kevin Gibson described Thursday his years as a big-time bank robber who earned about $850,000 before heading to federal prison.

Gibson's 12-year prison sentence led him to the federal witness protection program after he ratted out cellmate Dustin Honken, an Iowa methamphetamine dealer who bragged to Gibson about getting away with the murder of a mother and her two daughters. Honken is now on federal death row. His girlfriend, Angela Johnson, also was sentenced to death for the crimes but her sentence was overturned on appeal.

Gibson, arrested last year after DNA evidence on the killer's beard was linked to him, discussed Thursday taking polygraph tests to be part of a member of the secretive program. He denied murdering Spokane Valley furniture store owner Brian Cole on Nov. 7, 1992 - saying essentially that he was a professional robber who wouldn't mess with such a sloppy heist at a place with little cash. He suggested that a partner in his bank robberies might have committed the crime using a disguise from past bank heists.

Gibson said if he killed Cole, he would confess. But prosecutors pointed out that the bank robberies began after Cole's murder, and that Gibson also robbed convenience stores in Oregon. He also did so not just for the money but for the thrill, according to testimony.

Gibson, a level 3 sex offender, is charged with first-degree murder. He made the unusual decision to have his case heard by a judge instead of a jury. Superior Court Judge Tari Etizen is to hear closing arguments on Monday.

The trial began in late May but was delayed when prosecutors discovered at the last minute that America's Most Wanted host John Walsh and a TV actor handled the actual hat worn by the killer during a taping of the show in 1993.

Police obtained a sample of Walsh's DNA, as well as the actor and the detective who handled the hat, and submitted it to the state crime lab for testing.

Report details Gibson’s criminal history

When a man now charged in the 1992 shooting death of a Spokane Valley businessman left prison in the last few years, his brother attended a community meeting defending him. 

Patrick Kevin Gibson's neighbors had been notified of his status as a level 3 sex offender, and Michael Gibson was trying to explain his past crimes and justify his presence in the community.

Michael Gibson told sheriff's detectives he specifically asked his brother if he'd ever killed someone “and Patrick said he had not,” according to a police report.

“Patrick did tell Michael that he was the mastermind of everything he had done and had always acted alone,” the report says. Michael told detectives that his brother liked to flash his money around and may have been attracted to the excitement of robberies.

Patrick Gibson, 60, (pictured) has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. His trial was temporarily halted Monday because of the last-minute discovery by prosecutors that “America's Most Wanted” host John Walsh and an actor had handled the killer's hat after it was left at the scene.

Detectives say Michael was emotional in May 2011 when he learned his brother had been arrested for the nearly 20-year-old homicide.

“His first response was that he would never see Patrick again and that he had placed his own reputation on the line to help Patrick,” according to the report.

Michael said he went to bat for Patrick with concerned neighbors and said he told him if he messed up again, he'd be the first to turn him in, police wrote. Gibson has spent most of adult life in prison.

In August 1978, he fired shots at a Utah highway patrolmen who tried to  stop him for a traffic violation as he drove with his wife and her two children.

In November, he and another inmate escaped from jail, stole a car and traveled to Nevada, where he and an accomplice robbed and raped two convenience store clerks. Gibson was arrested three days later near Vancouver B.C.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in May 1979 but paroled in March 1992, about seven months before Cole was murdered.

Police say Gibson worked at a phone company in Stanwood, Wash., as a voice and data man but traveled frequently without his probation officer's permission. He's believed to have committed robberies in Oregon that same year.

The robberies are similar to gunpoint attacks at a clothing store in Coeur d'Alene and Cole's murder, both which occurred on Nov. 7, 1992.

While prosecutors believe Gibson himself got away with murder for nearly 20 years, Gibson  says he's partly responsible for helping convict a major drug lord who nearly got away with the murder of five people in Iowa in 1993, including two girls, ages 6 and 10.

The situation led Gibson to become a member of the federal government's witness protection program and resulted in death sentences for Dustin Lee Honken, 44, (pictured in 2005 by the Associated Press) and Honken's girlfriend, Angela Johnson, 48, though Johnson's sentence was overturned on appeal because of ineffective counsel.

Gibson told Spokane County sheriff's Detective Michael Drapaeu he shared a prison cell with Honken when Honken bragged about killing government witnesses and executing a family that included children.

“I decided to do the right thing,” Gibson told Drapaeu, according to court records. “I just tried to make amends for my past wrongs.”

It's unclear how exactly Gibson assisted in the case, but media reports say authorities placed an experienced jailhouse informant, Robert McNees, in a cell with Johnson who was able to obtain a map of of the grave sites.

A jury recommended Honken be sentenced to death after a lengthy trial in Sioux City, Iowa, in 2004. News reports at the time say the bodies of his five victims, which included two girls, ages 6 and 10, were found in late 2000 after Johnson drew a map and gave it a jailhouse informant.

Honken, who Iowa news reports say introduced methamphetamine to the state in the early 1990s, already was serving a 27-year sentence for drug trafficking when the bodies were discovered. Gibson was serving a 12-year sentence for bank robbery.

Gibson told Drapeau he would need to be isolated at the jail because he is a protected witness. Drapeau said he informed the jail of that, according to court documents.

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