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Robbery suspect bound over following testimony by witness

November 3, 2012
By DEANNE JOHNSON - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News

LISBON - A Wellsville man accused of attempting to rob McGraw's Drive Through with a knife was bound over in Columbiana County Municipal Court Thursday.

Lester Russell, 31, Commerce Street, Wellsville, was charged with aggravated robbery after he allegedly came into the drive through office and approached clerk Darrell Smith II holding a knife at his right side on Oct. 20.

"He said 'I hate to do this to you, but I need all the money in the register," Smith testified before Judge Carol Robb during a preliminary hearing Thursday. At that point, Smith said he grabbed the hand with the knife and he was able to push Russell out of the large garage doorway. Smith said Russell then changed his story and claimed he had just been "kidding."

Russell's defense attorney Connie Witt asked Smith if Russell threatened to stab him if he did not give him the money, which Smith said the knife was only held down at his side and no threat was made.

Witt also questioned whether Russell had told Smith he was being chased by some men. Smith said he could not understand half of what Russell was saying and he ran off down th alley while Smith called police.

During his testimony, Patrolman Joseph Saraniti said Russell told him four black men were chasing him and shooting at him, so he ran from them into McGraw's for help. Saraniti said Russell admitted to being there and that he should not have had a knife on him, but claimed not to have asked for money.

However, Saraniti was also able to view the video footage from the store, which showed a man he believed to be Russell in a red hat pushed down over his eyes, in a tussle with Smith.

After conferring with Assistant County Prosecutor Timothy McNicol and hearing Russell may have been considering leaving town, Saraniti said the police stopped Russell on Oct. 25 and charged him with the aggravated robbery charge. At the time of the stop, Saraniti testified there was furniture in the back of the truck Russell was in.

However, through his attorney, Russell claimed he had been moving furniture for a friend.

Still it was enough for Robb to deny any decrease in bond, which was previously set at $100,000. Robb also noted Russell may also have been involved in another incident currently under investigation.



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