Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure speaks at a Wednesday press conference in Sioux City about the arrests and sentencings of Jeffrey and Roxena Schoon, of Wall Lake, for four area bank robberies.
Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure speaks at a Wednesday press conference in Sioux City about the arrests and sentencings of Jeffrey and Roxena Schoon, of Wall Lake, for four area bank robberies.
April 18, 2013

Sioux City

Local, state and federal law officers staked out banks in several northwest Iowa counties last year after a man with a dark sweatshirt and a deep, raspy voice stole more than $10,000 from banks in Odebolt and Early less than two weeks apart.

Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure assumed it was the start of a spree, and that the robber wouldn't stop until he was arrested. The robber had threatened to use a gun at the first bank if clerks didn't comply.

"You felt a strong urgency to get these people captured," McClure said.

None of the officers was watching banks in Vail and Lytton when the robber struck again in January and March 2012, McClure said. The robber slipped away in the trunk of a car. His wife drove.

But in Lytton, across the street from the Heritage Bank where the pair stole about $4,600, was a surveillance camera that officers had placed in a farm supply store to watch the bank. It captured snippets of the getaway car that investigators later pieced together with the help of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. They later scoured vehicle registration records for a gold Dodge Stratus that pointed to Jeffrey and Roxena Schoon.

Investigators used other surveillance video from the Walmart in Carroll - which showed Jeffrey Schoon, a felon, buying gun ammunition - to get a search warrant for their Wall Lake house. Sheriff's deputies found at least one $20 bill that was taken from one of the banks and other items from the robberies: a blue cloth bag, medical masks, dark sunglasses, a blue hooded sweatshirt and latex gloves.

The Schoons were charged with several federal crimes in June 2012, pleaded guilty to some in December, and on Wednesday a judge sentenced Jeffrey Schoon, 48, to 15 years in federal prison and Roxena Schoon, 40, to five years.

There is no parole from federal prison.

The Schoons robbed the banks in Crawford and Sac counties of about $33,000 over the course of three months starting in December 2011, which they admitted as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

The Schoons planned the robberies for weeks, Jeffrey Schoon's teenage daughter Brittany told investigators. They sought banks with an alley behind but with no windows that faced the alley. Jeffrey Schoon went into the banks, demanded money and ran to their car, where he climbed into the trunk to hide as Roxena drove away.

Brittany Schoon said her father admitted to threatening people with a bomb in one of the robberies. Court records accused Jeffrey Schoon of threatening to ignite a tall glass jar filled with gasoline - what is known as a Molotov cocktail.

The Schoons drove to Las Vegas after the Vail robbery and married so that they wouldn't be required by law to testify against each other if caught for the crimes.

Roxena Schoon's previous surname was Doyle. McClure said Wednesday after the Schoons were sentenced that he and other investigators connected the Ford Taurus used in the first robbery to Roxena Doyle but were unaware she had married and changed her name.

Jeffrey Schoon pleaded for leniency in the weeks leading up to his sentencing for the sake of his two high-school-aged children:

"I have been a single father raising two children on my own since they were 3 and 2," Schoon wrote to a judge.

"I am very pained to know that my punishment will also be theirs. Please give Brittany, Bret and I some hope that we may someday hang out together again."

Schoon wrote that he was fired from a job two years ago and "fell into the grip of alcoholism and depression." He said his son suffers from cystic fibrosis, and that the boy might not live long enough to see Schoon released from prison.

Brittany Schoon wrote:

"We were in a very rough time in life ... he proved to his children how much he really does care and love us. In my mind that makes him the best father in the world.

"Please show mercy on him."

McClure said the Schoons' arrests were the result of the cooperation of multiple law-enforcement agencies and local residents. There was the farm supply shop that allowed the surveillance camera, the help from Buena Vista University to get a better picture of the getaway car, and the guidance from an Odebolt car dealership on the year, make, and model of the car.

"That's one of the benefits of living in a small community," McClure said. "Everybody wants to help."