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Ferndale bank theft trial scheduled 7 years after the reported crime

FERNDALE, Wash. — It was December 10, 2015, when Ferndale Police responded to a report of a robbery at the Ferndale branch of Key Bank. While there was an initial mention of a hostage situation, a teller told police a male called her saying he had a gun pointed at the branch manager. She said she was instructed to deliver money to a nearby remote location on Hovander Road.

Law enforcement located an empty box at the reported drop off location shortly after receiving the report. An investigation into the robbery began and involved multiple agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

On December 18, 2015, the bank teller, Donna Ann Brown, age 54 at the time, surrendered voluntarily to Ferndale Police at the Whatcom County Jail and was booked for 1st-degree theft.

At the time of her arrest, Ferndale Police said Brown had not admitted to the theft and she had not spoken with police since hiring an attorney the day after the robbery. They were confident that there was no gunman or other person posing a threat as was reported. Brown is suspected of taking over $30,000 in cash from the branch under the cover of the reported robbery. As of her arrest, none of the money had been recovered.

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The case was filed in Whatcom County Superior Court while both sides prepared to go to trial. Brown was released from custody under her own personal recognizance.

Brown’s jury trial had begun on March 10, 2020, but on March 11, 2020, Whatcom County Superior Court, along with other district and municipal courts, issued an administrative order whereby jury trials scheduled for any date between March 11th and March 31st were to be rescheduled to April 6th or later. The order was due to “COVID-19 being known to be highly contagious and easily transmitted in enclosed spaces like the jury rooms.”

On the morning of the March 11th order Brown’s attorney asked the court for a mistrial. It was granted “based on public safety and health grounds” and the jury was released. No new date for a jury trial was immediately set.

On June 14th, a new jury trial has been scheduled to begin on Monday, July 31st. The trial is expected to require 5 days. A pre-trial status conference is scheduled for July 5th.

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