Robbery suspect to undergo evaluation

Posted July 07, 2010, at 10:58 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A woman suspected of robbing a downtown bank on Tuesday was ordered to undergo a competency evaluation after she refused to answer any of the judge’s questions in court.

Matisha M. Pitts, 25, of Bangor made her initial appearance Wednesday in U.S. District Court on charges of bank robbery. Dressed in a dark blue prison uniform and standing next to her court-appointed attorney, Pitts remained silent when Judge John Woodcock asked her basic questions such as “What is your name?”

The woman’s attorney, Virginia Villa, stepped in and told the judge that her client had a history of mental illness and should submit to a competency evaluation.

Since Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey had no objections, Judge Woodcock granted Villa’s request.

After her client’s brief hearing on Wednesday, Villa said she doesn’t usually make a request for a competency evaluation unless she has a compelling reason. The date and location of that evaluation had not been set Wednesday, but Pitts will be held at Penobscot County Jail in the meantime. Villa said Pitts, like anyone with a history of mental illness, will be monitored closely while in custody.

Court documents allege that the woman entered Bangor Savings Bank on State Street around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. She handed a note to the teller that demanded money and indicated she had a gun in her bag and would start shooting if anyone tried to stop her.

The bank employee handed over $1,390 in cash and Pitts left the bank, according to an FBI affidavit.

Witnesses later told police that a woman matching a description of the bank robbery suspect got into a taxi in front of Bangor Savings shortly after 9:30 a.m. Police traced the taxi to an apartment building on Kenduskeag Avenue where Pitts was found.

After searching the apartment where Pitts was located, police recovered $780 in cash but no weapon. The remaining money was not accounted for.

Pitts was arrested on suspicion of bank robbery and held until her initial court appearance. Bank robbery is a federal offense punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Pitts has a history of criminal activity dating back to 2004, mostly involving theft and forgery charges. Earlier this year, she was arrested in Ellsworth and charged with printing counterfeit money and trying to use the bills at local businesses. That case is pending.

Pitts’ father and sister sat behind the suspect during her initial court appearance but declined to speak to the media.

Pitts was one of three women who shared the taxicab to the bank, and then to the apartment building.

One of the other two women, Ariel Hall, 19, of Bangor, was arrested for violating her probation and was taken to Penobscot County Jail. She was ordered held without bail for probation revocation Wednesday in Penobscot Judicial Center, a jail official said. Hall has several drug-related convictions on her record, according to court listings published in the Bangor Daily News.

The most serious one happened in April when Hall was convicted in Penobscot County Superior Court for unlawful furnishing of drugs that resulted in a sentence of two years in prison, with all but 50 days suspended, two years of probation and $110 in restitution.

The other female passenger was not charged.

BDN writer Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this report.

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