May 26, 2009 in City, Idaho

Pharmacy robber pleads guilty

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Before Spokane Police knew his name, 23-year-old Edward A. Saner was pharmacy enemy No. 1.

Starting in the spring of last year, a hooded man committed a string of robberies where he would pass his victims threatening notes while demanding OxyContin, a strong prescription painkiller.

The growing number of cases flummoxed investigators until they turned to Spokane Police Detective Brian Hamond. Based on Hamond’s creative detective work, Saner admitted committing seven robberies and pleaded guilty Tuesday to three of those in a plea agreement.

Facing a growing number of similar robberies last year, fellow Detective Terry Ferguson took the amount of pills the robber had obtained in the earlier heists and presented that information to Hamond, who developed a formula to predict when the robber would strike again, Deputy Prosecutor Tony Hazel said.

Calculating personal use and the likelihood the robber was also selling a few of the pills, Hamond made assumptions about how soon the robber would run out of the drug.

He accurately predicted the timing of robberies on Aug. 25 in Hayden, Idaho, and Sept. 8 in Spokane Valley. He guessed the robber would next strike again on Sept. 15, but the suspect hit three days later, once more in Spokane Valley.

“Following that incident, the formula was utilized again and resulted in a speculated date” of Oct. 3, Ferguson wrote in court records.

Police sent out surveillance teams to watch five Rite Aid pharmacies they believed the robber would target. Officers were waiting outside of the Rite Aid at 4514 S. Regal St. when Saner walked out with the stolen OxyContin in his pocket.

During his arrest, Saner claimed it was his first robbery.

“I saw it on TV and I looked like the guy so I thought I’d try it,” Saner said in court documents.

Prosecutors charged Saner with six counts of second-degree robbery in Spokane County and one in Kootenai County. In each case, the suspect wore a hooded sweatshirt and passed the pharmacy workers a note saying he had a gun while demanding OxyContin.

On Tuesday, Saner pleaded guilty to three of the Spokane County charges in exchange for prosecutors dropping three similar counts. As part of the same deal, Saner must also plead guilty to the Aug. 25 Walgreens robbery in Hayden, Hazel said.

Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno wanted to know why Hazel was dropping three of the robbery charges.

Hazel explained that Saner provided information that helped authorities eventually identify other suspected robbers. As part of the deal, Hazel said he will request that Moreno sentence Saner to the low end of the sentencing range, or 15 months in prison.

Saner, who remains out of custody while on electronic home monitoring, will also get credit for time served in jail.

Moreno agreed with a request from defense attorney Tracy Collins to delay the sentencing hearing until June 23 so that Saner can spend a week helping his mother recover from scheduled surgery.

Saner and his parents had no comment after the hearing.

Reporter Thomas Clouse can be reached at (509)459-5495 or at tomc@spokesman.com.

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