January 9, 1998 in Nation/World

Woman Arrested In Robbery Spree Suspect Desperate To Save Home 32-Year-Old Mother Caught After String Of Bank Holdups

Kim Barker Jonathan Martin Contribut Staff writer

A 32-year-old woman said she stole more than $5,000 from five Spokane County banks to stop a company from foreclosing on her home today.

Lisa M. Dressel was arrested outside the Fred Meyer store on East Francis Thursday morning, just after robbing three banks in less than 30 minutes.

“You do this long enough, all day long, we’re going to catch up to you,” said police Sgt. Wally Cusick, who helped catch Dressel before she robbed a fourth bank Thursday.

Dressel, who runs an informal day care out of her North Side home, told the FBI that she robbed all three banks.

She also admitted to robbing two other banks in the past three weeks.

“She was quite remorseful,” said FBI special agent Norman Brown, who interviewed Dressel. “She was eager to talk immediately upon contact.”

Her husband, Michael Dressel, told police he knew nothing about the robberies. The couple has a young son.

Lisa Dressel said she was desperate to stop the foreclosure on her home. She told police that she lives at 401 W. Jay, a tan nondescript ranch home assessed at $128,700. A Seattle company started foreclosing on the home Dec. 12, according to records from the county auditor.

Dressel was charged Thursday afternoon with a Dec. 15 bank robbery, but she’ll face charges in all five, Brown said.

In that first robbery, Dressel told the FBI, she wrote a note on a torn piece of newspaper at her home before driving to the Inland Northwest Bank in Yoke’s supermarket on Indian Trail Road. She carried a toy gun with her and wore fake glasses.

On that day, a woman walked up to bank teller Barbara Mellick shortly after 10 a.m. and handed her a note that said: “Put $20,000 in the sack - you have 1 minute - I have a gun.”

Dressel said she made off with $1,752. She spent some of the money on food and Christmas gifts and deposited some in her Seafirst Bank account, she told the FBI.

The second robbery occurred at 10:40 a.m. Wednesday at the Washington Mutual Bank branch in the Rosauers store at 9414 N. Division, just blocks away from Dressel’s home.

Dressel said she got about $2,300 in that heist.

In both crimes, the robber was described as a woman in her mid-20s to 30s, with shoulder-length brown hair. She was heavy and wore a sweat shirt, a stocking cap and sweat pants.

A bank surveillance picture of the woman was circulated widely on TV and in the newspaper on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Yet on Thursday, the robber struck again.

Police were first called at 10:10 a.m. to a robbery at the Seafirst Bank branch inside Safeway, 1616 W. Northwest Blvd., about six miles from Dressel’s home.

Dressel said she got about $1,200 from Seafirst, where she also has a bank account.

Fifteen minutes later, while officers were still investigating the Seafirst robbery, a woman robbed the Inland Northwest Bank branch at 210 E. North Foothills Blvd., inside Yoke’s supermarket.

Dressel told the FBI that she got “a few hundred dollars” from that bank.

After police arrived at Yoke’s, Sgt. Cusick called police dispatch and asked that officers be sent to watch all the banks inside supermarkets.

At 10:38 a.m. - 13 minutes after the second robbery - the robber hit a third bank, the U.S. Bank branch at 5101 N. Market.

This time, tellers put a time-release dye pack in the bag with the money. An employee peering out the back door watched the robber drive a black Mazda pickup down the alley and toss the bag out the window.

Dressel told the FBI that she threw out the money because of the dye pack. The employee carried the bag, soaked with red dye, back into the bank.

Police, positioned at different supermarkets, were told to watch for the black truck.

Just before 11 a.m., Det. John Willard saw a black Mazda truck drive through the Fred Meyer parking lot. The truck pull around the side of the store, stopping haphazardly next to the garden center.

The detective called for other officers. He watched the woman driver take off her sweat shirt and put on a bluish coat and a stocking cap. She then stepped out of the truck and walked toward the store, where a Washington Mutual Bank branch is located.

But something spooked her, and she turned around.

“I think she saw me pull into the lot,” said Cusick, who was driving a marked police car.

Police arrested Dressel just around the corner from the door. She wore a dark bluish-green jacket, black leggings and white tennis shoes.

Witnesses from the three morning robberies were taken to a parking lot across the street from the Fred Meyer, to identify Dressel as she sat handcuffed in a police car.

Police then drove Dressel to the federal building downtown and turned her over to the FBI, which investigates bank robberies.

She told the FBI that she planned to rob the bank at the Fred Meyer store.

A search warrant was requested for the Mazda pickup, registered to Dressel’s husband at the 401 W. Jay address.

Dressel, who earned a high school diploma and attended one year of college, has no criminal record. She said she didn’t plan to hurt anyone and never carried a real gun.

Neighbors said Dressel often baby-sat for the children of friends, although she isn’t a licensed day-care operator.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color) Map of area

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Kim Barker Staff writer Staff writer Jonathan Martin contributed to this report.

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