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Polk County News and Democrat Public helps capture suspected bank robbers
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News Story
Updated: 06/14/2014 08:00:03AM

Public helps capture suspected bank robbers

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Randall Wandell was captured on video going into the bank on Lakeland Hills Boulevard.

Randall L. Wandell

Ceneca C. Guthridge

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With the help of someone who saw a reports about a bank robbery on the news and the use of CrimeStoppers, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested two men suspected of robbing a Wells Fargo bank in Winter Haven who are also suspected of robbing banks in Kissimmee and Leesburg, the sheriff’s office reported.

Randall L. Wandell, 28, of Lakeland, was charged with robbery with a firearm, attempted robbery and an out of county warrant for failure to register as a sex offender in Hillsborough County, and Ceneca C. Guthridge, 26, of Lakeland, of robbery, and attempted robbery. Both have criminal backgrounds, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd noted.

“Had they been in prison, they could not have robbed these banks. Our criminal justice system is the best in the world, but it is a forgiving system that too frequently allows repeat criminals too many chances, which results in people getting hurt and property being stolen,” Judd said.

On May 22, surveillance video and witnesses indicated the Wells Fargo bank robbery suspect was a white male, approximately 5-foot-11 to 6 feet tall, with a medium build. Indicating he had a gun, he handed the teller a note demanding money and left the bank with cash.

On May 30, images of a white male, approximately of that description, were captured by video surveillance of a bank robbery suspect at BB&T Bank located on North John Young Parkway in Kissimmee, as he handed the teller a note demanding money.

A citizen, seeing the news coverage of the Kissimmee bank robbery investigation, recognized the images as likely the same suspicious person seen in the Fifth/Third Bank located on Lakeland Hills Boulevard, Lakeland, approximately 90 minutes before the Kissimmee robbery. The suspect was in the Fifth/Third Bank, but there was no robbery.

Video surveillance from the Fifth/Third Bank was obtained and Polk County robbery detectives determined the Kissimmee suspect was the same person as the one who had been in the Lakeland bank, including that the suspect was wearing the Jacksonville Jaguars ball cap, basketball shoes and was carrying a black laptop bag.

As the investigation continued, detectives learned of another Wells Fargo Bank robbery that occurred in Leesburg on June 7. The description and video surveillance images matched the images of the previous cases.

A CrimeStoppers tip was received on June 10 indicating that Wandell was a possible suspect from the Fifth/Third Bank robbery.

Detectives also learned Wandell had an active Hillsborough County warrant for failure to register as a sex offender, the sheriff’s office reported.

When deputies arrived at Wandell’s Lakeland residence, he was taken into custody on the warrant. When questioned about the robberies, Wandell admitted to robbing the Wells Fargo Bank in Winter Haven and going into the Lakeland Fifth/Third Bank in Lakeland with the intent to rob it, the sheriff’s office reports. He also admitted to robbing the BB&T Bank in Kissimmee and the Wells Fargo Bank in Leesburg.

Detectives got a search warrant for Wandell’s residence and located clothing matching the clothing worn during the robberies. Detectives also found ecstasy, methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, and marijuana.

Wandell’s wife, Rachel Wandell, 29, was also arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana.

Detectives determined that Wandell had not acted alone and discovered that Guthridge was Wandell’s accomplice — he drove Wandell to the robberies, the sheriff’s office reported.

A search warrant was obtained for the residence at which Guthridge was located. During the search, detectives found a black bag containing a hat, glasses, shirt and tie that exactly match what Wandell wore during the Fifth/Third Bank incident and BB&T (Kissimmee) bank robbery. Detectives also found a suit believed to be the one Wandell wore during the Winter Haven Wells Fargo Robbery, along with $380 in cash stuffed in a towel in the bathroom.

Guthridge was taken into custody. A further search of Guthridge’s personal property revealed ecstasy and marijuana. Detectives also arrested William Hodges, 28, who was visiting Guthridge’s residence at the time detectives arrived. Hodges was on probation for attempted murder and robbery, the sheriff’s office reported. Hodges was charged with violation of his probation.

Both Wandell and Guthridge are facing drug related charges as well. Charges for the other bank robberies in other jurisdictions are pending from those investigating agencies.

The sheriff’s office reports that Wandall had been arrested nine previous times and Guthridge had been arrested 11 previous times.

Man charged with pushing wife to ground

A 51-year-old man was charged with domestic violence after he threw his wife on the ground during an argument at their house, the Bartow Police Department reported.

Steven Roy Haynes was booked into the Polk County Jail on the charges, police report. On June 1, Haynes went into the bedroom and took the television remote from his wife’s hand. She stood up and Haynes pushed her onto the ground with his hands to her shoulder, the police reported.

He then grabbed his wife’s right arm and stated “Shut off the TV b----,” the report said.

Haynes then left the room and the wife fearing for her safety contacted the police department.

When police arrived they noticed a small bruise on her right arm but she said she did not need medical attention. Haynes denied touching his wife and said it was a verbal argument only they had.

Mulberry men charged with marijuana possession

Despite a suspect questioning if he and another should arrested for having only a small amount of marijuana, they were on June 2, the Bartow Police Department reported.

While on patrol, Officer Carl Smith saw a car parked at 1185 Britts Lane, which is near Gause Academy at 1:35 p.m. He noted in his report this is a high crime area and drug sales go on there.

He and Officer Anton Jefferson could smell marijuana when they approached the vehicle.

Smith said he noticed a green leafy substance on Steven Andrew Staaf’s pants. He then ordered Staaf and Deon Donte Smith, both from Mulberry, to get out of the car.

Officer Britt Davis responded to the scene and he and Jefferson started searching the car for cannabis, the report said. They found a small baggie in the ashtray and a joint was found between the front seats of the car.

According to reports, while officers were searching, Smith said, “There’s only a small baggie of weed in the ashtray.” Then Staaf said, “You’re not going to lock us up over a small amount of weed, are you?”

But when the officers tested the substances and they came back positive as marijuana, both were charged.

Lakeland Police officer shot during confrontation

A Lakeland police officer is in critical condition after being shot during a confrontation with a possible wanted suspect.

Authorities say the suspect was also shot multiple times, leaving him in critical condition.

Police spokesman Sgt. Gary Gross says Officer Doug Mills and Sgt. Jeff Gary confronted the suspect Tuesday morning. The man shot at the officers.

Mills was shot at least once and was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center.

Gross says the officers shot back at the man. He was hit multiple times and was also taken to the hospital.

Police say the man was carrying four handguns at the time.

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