WARRENTON, Ga. -- Thomas Lipscomb Shapard has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after he admitted to robbing a local bank of more than $20,000 in cash last year.
Mr. Shapard, o f Savannah, who was represented by Assistant Public Defender Anne Carroll, pleaded guilty to a charge of robbery involving the November 2009 holdup of Citizens Bank. His plea came during a hearing in Warren County Superior Court on Wednesday.
When Toombs Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Roger W. Dunaway, Jr. asked the defendant if he committed the crime, Mr. Shapard replied, "Yes sir, I did."
The 43-year-old Mr. Shapard, a confessed alcoholic with at least three mental disorders, including being bipolar, said he understood the charge against him, saying, "I plead guilty, your honor."
Judge Dunaway informed Mr. Shapard that he could face a maximum of 20 years in prison by admitting his guilt. The defendant also was informed that he had a right to change his plea and have his case heard by a jury or by bench trial, if he so desired.
Mr. Shapard said he didn't remember a lot of things about the Nov. 2 robbery, but that it wasn't in his character to do what he did.
Aside from sentencing Mr. Shapard to prison time, Judge Dunaway also tacked on a five-year probationary sentence and ordered that he get mental counseling and drug treatment.
Judge Dunaway denied First Offender status to the convicted bank robber.
Prior to imposing a sentence, Judge Dunaway said, "This is a difficult case -- the type case that makes this job difficult. I do find it most difficult."
Nevertheless, Judge Dunaway said he had a responsibility to help protect society.
"You terrorized a lot of people that day," Judge Dunaway told Mr. Shapard.
A criminal history of Mr. Shapard revealed that he had never been convicted of a more serious crime than driving under the influence.
Mr. Shapard, wearing a ball cap, walked into the bank and presented a note to a teller and demanded money. He also indicated he had a gun and a partner, according to the facts of the case as presented by Senior Assistant District Attorney William Doupe'.
Authorities learned after the robbery that Mr. Shepard acted alone and never had a weapon.
Mr. Shapard said he didn't remember planning the crime.
The only witness called to testify on behalf of the state was Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Joe Brown of the Region 7 Office in Thomson.
Shortly before 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2009, Agent Brown said, the GBI office received a telephone call from Warren County Sheriff Joe Peebles advising that there had been a bank robbery and he needed the GBI's assistance. The sheriff, according to Agent Brown, added that a suspect had been taken into custody while driving a Volvo about a mile away.
Officers Richard Brunner and Lamar Baxley of the Warrenton Police Department took Mr. Shapard into custody about five minutes after his attempted getaway. They were assisted by Lt. Ron Sellers and Chief Jim McClain.
During the course of the investigation, it was learned that the robber, later identified as Mr. Shapard, had walked into the bank and presented a teller with a note that read: "This is not a joke," Mr. Doupe' told Judge Dunaway.
Mr. Shapard fled the bank with more than $20,000 in cash. It marked the first time in the 107 year history that the bank has been robbed, according to First Citizens Bank Senior Vice President Tommy Phelps. All of the money was recovered in the trunk of Mr. Shapard's Volvo.
Mr. Phelps read a letter written by the bank teller who was robbed.
The teller said the robbery had left "a profound and permanent impact" on her life. She also indicated that she thought she was in a life-threatening situation when the bank was being robbed.
Mr. Phelps said bank officials take seriously the safety of their employees.
Mr. Shapard said he was passing through Warrenton for the first time in his life, bound for Charlotte, N.C., to get help for his mental disorders and alcohol addiction before the robbery.
Earlier that same day, Mr. Shappard had been released from the Putnam County Jail in Eatonton where he had been jailed for two months for a driving under the influence conviction.
"There was planning and thought that went into this," Mr. Doupe' told the court. He cited several instances of it.
After demanding and getting the cash he had requested, Mr. Shapard even told the clerk, "Have a nice day."
During his walk with his briefcase not far from the bank's parking lot, two other bank employees watched as a red die-pack exploded, staining his hands and several bills.
"I wish I could turn back the clock, but I can't," Mr. Shapard said, noting that since his incarceration that his wife had divorced him and he no longer had a relationship with his four children. "I deeply regret my actions."
Mr. Shapard also apologized to the bank clerk he robbed that day.
"I send my sincerest apologies to her and to her family," he added.
Mr. Shapard told Judge Dunaway he offered no excuses for what he did.
"I don't remember a lot of it," he said.
His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Shapard, also spoke to Judge Dunaway about their son.
"We're here to support Tom," Mrs. Shapard said. "This was very out of his character and we're all shocked at this behavior."
The robber's father said, "He's been overwhelmed by bipolar and alcoholism."