Robery Suspect Vehicle

    Branson resident Kim Chapell took this photo when she noticed a man carrying a bag with a pink cloud coming out of it leave the Cedar Ridge branch of Central Bank Oct. 16. Chapell’s photo allowed Branson Police to quickly connect 76-year-old Hollister resident, Joseph Cyrus, with robbery of $30,946 from Central Bank. Cyrus turned himself in to Branson Police Oct. 21 and pleaded guilty to the crime Nov. 10 in federal court.

    Something was wrong with this picture.

    This wasn’t country crooner Billy Ray Cyrus strumming a guitar and making a video entertaining visitors on the strip but it did involve somebody else surnamed Cyrus making a Branson getaway of a very different sort.

    One of the very first customers entering the Cedar Ridge branch of the Central Bank of Branson on James Epps Road just south of Missouri 248 wanted to make a cash withdrawal on Oct. 16.

    The problem was — he wasn’t a customer and the demand placed on bank funds wasn’t coming from his account.

    Security photos released by Branson Police after the incident showed a man with a blue stocking-cap-style mask pulled down over his face holding a dark handgun and gripping the counter with his left hand. He was wearing white gloves.

    No one was injured in the robbery and, according to an affidavit filed by the FBI, tellers put cash in a blue bag provided by the masked man later identified as Joseph Eddy Cyrus, 76, of Hollister. Along with the cash, tellers stuck bait bills and an exploding dye pack in Cyrus’ blue bag.

    Cyrus was seen outside the bank walking toward a pickup truck. As he was walking, witnesses noticed a pink cloud coming from the bag he was carrying.

    One witness said Cyrus calmly put the bag down and adjusted the contents before getting into his truck and driving away.     Another witness, Kim Chapell, of Branson, sprang into action taking several photos of Cyrus’ getaway vehicle, a white Ford Ranger pickup truck. The photos shown to police revealed four of six characters clearly visible on a license plate from an unknown state attached to the vehicle backwards. The face of the license plate was against the truck’s bumper.

    Chapell was honored by Branson Police Chief Kent Crutcher, who presented her a certificate of appreciation during a Nov. 24 Board of Aldermen meeting.

    “You noticed a suspicious male leaving the bank carrying a bag with a pink residue coming from it. You took a picture of the vehicle as it left the bank, and it was through your efforts that the police department was able to identify the suspect and bring a quick resolution to the crime,” Crutcher said.

    Branson Police Sgt. Pat Gray wasn’t on duty when the robbery occurred, yet was instrumental in identifying Cyrus as a suspect. Hearing dispatchers broadcast a description of the robber and vehicle, Gray recalled having seen a similar vehicle parked near the Yacht Club Mobile Home Park in Hollister.

    The truck was familiar to Gray because he had seen a “for sale” sign in the Ranger and called the phone number to inquire about purchasing the truck. Gray drove over to Hollister about noon and located the Ranger. The license plate matched the four identified characters on the getaway vehicle.

    Running a check on the truck’s West Virginia license plates, Gray learned the Ranger was registered to Cyrus. David Dykes, manager of the mobile home park, told Gray that Cyrus had paid his rent and checked out at approximately 11 a.m. the same day. Cyrus left driving a late model silver Chevrolet Malibu with Texas license plates and left the pickup at the mobile home parking lot, hoping it would sell.    

    A federal agent made a ruse call to the telephone number listed on the “for sale” sign in the truck. The call went to voice mail and the agent left a message indicating he was interested in purchasing the truck.

    The agent was able to contact Cyrus through Dykes, who called Cyrus and told him he had a potential buyer for the truck. The agent spoke to Cyrus posing as the potential buyer. Cyrus later called the agent back and told him he could arrange to wire the money to a bank in Marietta, Ohio. Cyrus said he would sell the truck cheap but that he was not willing to come back to Hollister to do so.

    The manhunt ended when Cyrus turned himself in to Branson Police five days after the robbery Oct. 21. He was charged with stealing $30,946 from Central Bank, 1115 James Epps Road, on  Oct. 16, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office that is prosecuting the case.

    The event triggered a one-day bank holiday with the Cedar Ridge branch closing until the following Monday. Cyrus’ getaway was short lived. After turning himself in, he pleaded guilty to the crime in federal court  Nov. 10 and is awaiting sentencing.

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