CLOSE

TRUE CRIMES: Don't Mess with Texas (Banks)

Most bank robberies follow a similar pattern: robber enters bank, approaches teller while brandishing a weapon, demands money, and (he hopes) makes his escape. So when a robbery call came in Saturday morning, September 21, 1991, for the Texas Commerce Bank in San Antonio, Texas, law enforcement officials had to double-check the address. It was a motor bank, that is, a bank that provided drive-thru service only by tellers locked inside a small building behind layers of bullet-proof glass. How could such a fortress get robbed?

The Crime

Kelly McGinnis, 21, and Lisa Silvas, 19, were the tellers assigned to work the 9AM-1PM shift that Saturday. The two girls were certainly young to be working alone in a low-security facility (no security guards, no CCTV equipment), but they were outgoing and pretty (both were former cheerleaders) and they were popular with the bank's clientele, so management didn't hesitate to pair them on shifts together. When they arrived for work that day, Kelly unlocked the first of two doors in the building and walked with Lisa down a corridor toward the second door. As she opened that door, a figure in coveralls and a mask topped by a ski cap seemingly appeared from nowhere and, in an obviously disguised voice, ordered her to cut off the alarm. Pointing a pistol at his captives, the robber restrained Kelly with a pair of plastic handcuffs and ordered Lisa to open the vault. He warned her not to trip any silent alarms: "I have a police scanner," he said indicating his pocket, "and if I hear any calls about the bank on the radio, I'll kill both of you." Inside the vault, he waited by Lisa nervously opened both safes and then dumped the money inside a plastic trash bag. He then ordered her to empty the two teller drawers into the bag. He marched both girls back into the vault and told them to stay there. Seconds later, Kelly wanted to hit the alarm, but Lisa wasn't sure the robber had left yet, so she persuaded her to wait a few minutes.

When the police did arrive, they were puzzled. How had the perp known where the vault and teller drawers were located? Why didn't he scout around the rest of the building? Why did he bother to disguise his voice?

The Perpetrators

All the indicators pointed to an inside job, and suspicion then fell on Lisa Silvas (the teller who hadn't been handcuffed) and her husband, Jack Nealy. Nealy had served as a Marine for eight years and was now in his second year working as a San Antonio police officer. At 28, he was almost ten years older than Lisa, but he had been smitten since they first met in September 1990. His adoration of her bordered on obsession: Jack called her several times each day and would drive by the bank to make sure she was at work. He regularly pulled over Lisa's ex-boyfriend for any minor traffic infraction and left him with both a citation and a warning to stay away from Lisa. Lisa loved the attention and bragged to friends how Jack spoiled her. Lisa also loved nice clothes and designer handbags, and Jack was having trouble supporting her shopping habit on a police officer's salary (especially since he was paying alimony to an ex-wife plus child support). Lisa had mentioned the lax security at her bank branch to Jack many times, and eventually the pair hatched the scheme that would net them just under a quarter of a million dollars. Nine days before the robbery, they got married in a quick ceremony at the county courthouse (authorities later surmised that they'd done so to avoid being forced to testify against one another should they get caught).

Stepfather knows Best

Picture 77.pngAll of the FBI's evidence was circumstantial, however, and Lisa and Jack may well have made their planned getaway to Grand Cayman had Jack's stepfather not noticed a patch of freshly disturbed earth on his property. He got a shovel and began digging and found a canvas tote bag filled with money, which he turned over to the FBI. The money included 30 different "bait bills" "“ hundred dollar bills whose serial numbers had been recorded by the bank so they could be traced in the event of a robbery. Even though Jack and Lisa maintained their innocence throughout the subsequent trial, they were found guilty and sentenced to 15 and 12 years in prison respectively.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
iStock
iStock

Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
iStock
iStock

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios