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Great RH bank robbery of 1972
Shirley Says
shirley 3
The bank as it appeared in 1972. - photo by Photo provided.
Forty years ago Richmond Hill had no traffic lights, two police officers and little crime. Out of town scam artists, escaped convicts and vagrants rarely found their way to Richmond Hill. It wasn’t uncommon for the people to leave their homes unlocked or leave the keys in their car.
Violence was unlikely, even unthinkable. They had grown up with a sense of community…knowing everyone in town by their first name; most were related.
The first bank opened in here in 1972, with two tellers and a branch manager; Debra Darieng, Runette Parker and Richard Lee, respectively.
The Richmond Hill Branch of the Pembroke State Bank was built in a vacant cornfield, where the Richmond Hill Pharmacy is now located.
As further testament to the "safeness" of the town, the bank’s only alarm system was connected to the vault door.
It was a typical cold morning in December 1972 when Debra picked up the mail before going to work. Having just graduated high school, this was her first job.
Eager to work, she often arrived early, bounced out of her new Chevy Monte Carlo, unlocked the back door, turned on the radio, and made coffee.
That particular morning something didn’t feel right. There was an uneasiness in the air even an 18-year-old girl could sense.
She decided to wait in her car for Runette.
When Debra saw Runette arrive and walk toward the front of the bank, she got out.
Before she could turn her key in the backdoor, it swung open. Something was definitely wrong…perhaps Runette had forgotten to lock it the night before. Nevertheless, as soon as she put a foot inside the bank, all hell broke loose!
Terror gripped her as she came face to face with three men wearing ugly rubber masks.
They each had a gun and were pointing them at her…and they were growling!
Throwing the day’s mail in the air, Debra let out a blood-curdling scream and ran.
From the front, Runette heard her, and thought she had encountered a squirrel or a snake. Anything else was unthinkable.
Debra rounded the corner without slowing down. Runette was terrorized when she heard her yell, “Run Runette, run! They’re going to kill us!”
They tore across Hwy. 17 without looking for oncoming traffic! Then they ran down the dirt road between Augie’s Pub and Harrison’s Service Center to Mrs. Grace Miner’s house.
Debra made it there first, almost knocking Mrs. Grace down when she opened the door.
Having fallen three times along the way, Runette realized she wouldn’t be able to outrun the robbers.
When she stopped running and looked back, she saw Debra’s car heading South with three men inside! At a nearby motel, they abandoned the car. Of course, she had not removed her keys!
When Runette and Debra made it back to the bank, they realized nothing was taken. It was then Debra thought something awful had happened to one of her feet while she was making her get-away…she was walking funny. As it turned out, one of the heels on her black, shiny knee boots had broken off on the gravel road.
As soon as the bank president, Billy Miles, was notified of the break-in, he sped toward the crime scene. Leaving "Dodge City," as Bill Summerford jokingly referred to Pembroke, he lost control of his car near Morgan’s Bridge and ran into a ditch.
Meanwhile, back in Richmond Hill RFD, local sheriff Carlos Jones had just arrested a young man for smoking pot and had him in the backseat of his cruiser.
Excited, Carlos raced to the bank, forgetting about the "prisoner," who made his own get-away.
From a vantage point in the cornfield, candy wrappers were found in a wallowed out spot. It was later determined the hooligans were hiding there observing morning activity at the bank. It’s doubtful these three were on America’s Most Wanted list. They sure left their impression on the bank employees.
Richard began "packing" a .38-police special, saying, “The bank bought it for me and I still have it.” He retired after 30 years in the banking business. Debra left the bank shortly thereafter, married Louis Arnsdorff, and they have been happily married for 36 years. Runette became more determined to have a successful banking career and has been doing it for the past 40 years.
All’s well that ends well…

Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. You can reach her at
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