Clue left behind tipped off police to bank robbery suspect

A Bloomington man accused of robbing two banks in Columbus left a major clue behind after the most recent one on Tuesday.

His note to the MainSource bank teller, which he forgot to take with him, was an invoice from a Bloomington bank that included his name.

Stephen Lee, 49, had his initial hearing Friday afternoon by video in Bartholomew Superior Court 1.

Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash filed felony charges accusing Lee of the attempted robbery of Jackson County Bank, 400 Washington St., on Nov. 2, and armed robbery of MainSource Bank, 529 Washington St., on Tuesday, court documents show.

Superior 1 Judge James Worton entered a not-guilty plea for Lee. The judge set an 8:45 a.m. March 7 hearing for Lee to notify the court whether he had obtained an attorney or wished to have court-appointed representation.

Lee told the judge he had not spoken to his family yet and wanted to give them time to process what happened before discussing the attorney issue.

Worton set Lee’s trial date for Aug. 9 and reminded him that he is being held in lieu of $300,000 bond, which meant that he would need to post $30,000 to be released from the Bartholomew County Jail.

A probable-cause affidavit filed with the charges states when Lee left MainSource at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, he left behind a bank invoice from Farmers and Mechanics Federal Bank in Bloomington that had his name on the document.

Columbus Police detectives determined the bank has a branch in Bloomington, the probable-cause affidavit states.

The Bloomington Police Department provided information to detectives and helped police identify Lee from his driver’s license photo, which was believed to be the same person shown in the MainSource Bank security video, the affidavit states.

Assisted by Bloomington police, Lee was located at 3725 Mesa Lane in Bloomington and questioned at the Bloomington Police Department on Wednesday, court documents state.

While being interviewed, Lee admitted to police he committed both bank robberies and identified himself as the robber in the two bank surveillance videos, the affidavit states.

In the Nov. 2 attempted robbery, police were called to the Jackson County Bank, 400 Washington St. at about 4 p.m.

A bank manager there said a suspect gave him a note that said “give me all your large bills,” the affidavit states.

The manager said the robber had his right hand in his pocket as if he had a weapon, the affidavit states.

However, the manager told the suspect, later identified as Lee, that he could not access any money and the man left the bank.

Captured on video, the suspect — now identified as Lee — was described as 6 feet tall, wearing a greenish-grayish pullover and a camouflage ball cap.

In the Tuesday robbery, the suspect handed a teller a note that said to give him all large bills and that he had a gun, the affidavit states.

The man, also identified as Lee, also lifted his shirt and showed what appeared to be a handgun in his waistband, the affidavit states.

The teller gave him cash and Lee left the bank on foot. In the MainSource robbery, he was described as wearing a black sweatshirt with red IU letters and a gray or tan ball cap with a dark bill and sunglasses.

If found guilty on both charges, Lee would face a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

At a glance

A hearing has been set for 8:45 a.m. March 7 for bank-robbery suspect Stephen Lee to notify the court whether he has obtained an attorney or wished to have court-appointed representation.

Lee’s trial date has been set for Aug. 9.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.