Before Spokane police knew his name, 23-year-old Edward A. Saner was pharmacy enemy No. 1.
Starting last spring, a hooded man committed a string of robberies in which he passed 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. As a result of Hamond’s creative detective work, Saner admitted committing seven robberies and pleaded guilty Tuesday to three of them in an agreement with prosecutors.
The conviction followed an investigation that involved a fair amount of math – and a little guessing.
Facing a growing number of similar robberies, Detective Terry Ferguson added up the number the amount of pills the robber had obtained and presented that information to Hamond. Hamond developed a formula to predict when the robber would strike again, Deputy Prosecutor Tony Hazel said.
Factoring in personal use and the likelihood that the robber was selling a few of the pills, Hamond predicted when the robber would run out of OxyContin. He accurately predicted the timing of robberies Aug. 25 in Hayden and Sept. 8 in Spokane Valley. He guessed the robber would next strike Sept. 15, but the robbery came three days later, again 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 surveillance teams to five Rite Aid pharmacies. Officers were waiting outside the Rite Aid at 4514 S. Regal St. when Saner walked out with stolen OxyContin in his pocket.
During his arrest, Saner claimed that robbery was his first.
“I saw it on TV, and I looked like the guy so I thought I’d try it,” Saner said, according to court documents.
Prosecutors charged Saner with six counts of second-degree robbery in Spokane County and one in Kootenai County. In each case, the robber wore a hooded sweatshirt and passed 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 deal, Saner must also plead guilty to the Aug. 25 Walgreens robbery in Hayden, Hazel said.
Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno asked in court why Hazel was dropping three of the charges.
Hazel explained that Saner provided information that helped authorities identify other suspected robbers. As part of the deal, Hazel said he will ask Moreno to sentence Saner to the low end of the sentencing range, or 15 months in prison.
Saner, who remains on electronic home monitoring, will also get credit for time he spent 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.