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Baldwin 'Gun-toting granny' gets house arrest, probation

| Friday, July 6, 2007, 12:00 p.m.

Her white hair clipped up with bobby pins, a Baldwin Borough grandmother apologized Thursday for robbing a West Mifflin bank at gunpoint, saying she was only trying to help her financially strapped son.

"(My son) was very depressed and said he was going to commit suicide," Marilyn Devine, 76, told an Allegheny County judge. "I'm sorry it ever happened. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would hope that it never happened, but that's impossible to do."

Devine was sentenced to 23 months on house arrest and 20 years on probation for pointing an unloaded 9 mm semiautomatic pistol at two tellers and making off with nearly $6,000 in March 2006 from the National City bank branch inside the Century Square Shop 'n Save.

Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen spared Devine a trip to prison. She is allowed to leave her home only for medical purposes.

The District Attorney's Office agreed to drop a five-year mandatory prison sentence in exchange for her guilty plea in April.

"Your age is only one factor. Your crime is serious," Machen told her. "Some may feel this sentence is too light. Some may feel it's too onerous. But I'd ask them to think about it for a moment. It's similar to prison. You may consider it worse than prison.

"If there's any future reason you come in front of me, there really won't be anything that could help you from spending the rest of your life in a state penitentiary."

Several bank employees told Machen they thought they were going to die when Devine pointed a gun in their faces.

"You might not remember my face, but I'm haunted by yours," Janelle Drecnik, 25, a teller who started work that week, told Devine. "I thought I was going to die.

"And the ridicule of people laughing that I got robbed by a grandmother -- some people think that's funny."

Defense attorney Noah Geary told Machen that his client's son, Francis, 40, suffers from mental illness. Her son called her the night before and threatened to kill himself because he was in dire financial straits, the lawyer said.

Devine did not have access to money because her husband, Raymond, removed her name from their bank accounts. Devine had previously taken out loans for her son, on which she defaulted, Geary said.

Francis Devine was not in court yesterday and could not be reached.

Marilyn Devine -- a Korean War veteran, former teacher and Veterans Affairs hospital nurse for more than 30 years -- had a clean record. She devised the plan the day after the phone call; when her husband left for breakfast at the American Legion, she took her Steelers scarf and her husband's unloaded gun, Geary said.

Another of her four sons, Michael Devine, 42, said his brother, Francis, has a history of manipulating their mother.

"I almost wish she would go to jail to appease everyone. But she's my mom, and the judge made a decision. Personally, no, I don't think she should go to jail," Michael Devine said. "This has affected a lot of people -- even my wife and I. My mom's now known as the gun-toting granny."

Marilyn Devine and Drecnik called Machen's sentence fair.

"Don't ever go against the law. Never, never go against the law," Marilyn Devine said. "I've lost the respect of a lot of people. That's a very valuable thing to lose.

"I really didn't think I scared them as much as I did. I wasn't intending to hurt anybody."

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