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Accused bank robber bound for trial

John Williams III

Colusa County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson on Friday found there was sufficient evidence for the man accused of robbing the Arbuckle Umpqua Bank in 2019 to be bound over for trial.

A preliminary hearing was held May 14 in which the primary evidence against John Williams III, 42, of Woodland, was introduced in court.

Williams is accused of being the first of two men to walk into the bank with a handgun in the afternoon of July 5, 2019, and make off with more than $2,000 in cash, before fleeing in a stolen Toyota Tundra pickup.

The robbery led to a high speed vehicle pursuit by a Colusa County Sheriff’s Deputy into Yolo County, before both suspects managed to escape through an orchard on foot.

According to the testimony of Colusa Police Lt. Sara Martin, who was the District Attorney’s investigator at the time of the robbery, the DNA recovered from a purple bandanna that was reportedly tossed from the pickup with other items of clothing matched that of Williams, a previously convicted felon whose DNA was on file in the FBI’s crime database.

Colusa County Chief Deputy District Attorney Brendan Farrell also introduced a recording of a conversation between Williams and his cousin, Michael Gene Jones Jr., while they were alone in the back of a patrol car on Aug. 12, when both men were being transported to court.

Jones, 50, of Woodland, pleaded guilty on Aug. 27 to being the second man to enter the bank with a gun and make off with about $2,300, after DNA found on a discarded glove linked him to the crime.

In the recording, Williams, whose voice was identified by the Colusa County Jail Sgt. Christopher Cooper, whispers to Jones that prosecutors had the clothing that Williams threw out the window.

Williams, who is representing himself in the proceedings, had filed motions to have the recording and recovered clothing suppressed as evidence, but Thompson denied both.

With regard to the recording, Thompson said Williams could have no expectation of privacy while in custody.

Thompson also said Williams could have no expectation of privacy regarding clothing recovered on a public roadway, particularly since Wiliams has not admitted the clothing was his.

The DA contends that Williams was the passenger in the stolen vehicle driven by Jones and pursued first by Fire Chief Casey Cox and then Deputy Robert Ladd after the robbery was witnessed by an Arbuckle resident using the ATM.

The vehicle reportedly slowed on County Line Road so Williams could get out and flee on foot.

Williams’ defense is that of mistaken identity, based on the description that Deputy Ladd gave of the man he saw running through the orchard as an African American male in his 20s.

Deputy Ladd testified on Friday that he estimated the age based solely on the man’s level of fitness and endurance, and not as an eyewitness that could positively identify Williams as the suspect. Williams has filed a complaint against the Sheriff’s Office, claiming police reports were altered or tampered with, and has asked for a Grand Jury investigation.

Williams will re-enter a plea on charges alleging second degree robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm on June 17. The District Attorney said they would not pursue charges against Williams of vehicle theft or evading a peace officer in connection to the stolen Tundra. §

 

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