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'I guess I just flipped'

| Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Marilyn Devine stood before her husband of 32 years Monday afternoon, her wrists and ankles shackled, and refused to look him in the eyes.

"Honey, what happened?" Raymond Devine, 77, asked in a West Mifflin courtroom as his eyes filled with tears.

"I don't know," his wife, 75, answered quietly. "I guess I just flipped."

West Mifflin police said Marilyn Devine, of Baldwin Borough, held up the National City Bank in the Century Square shopping center on Lebanon Church Road yesterday morning and then led police on a 5.3-mile, 45-mph pursuit through that borough and Baldwin.

The grandmother of two admitted to the robbery, West Mifflin police Chief Joe Popovich said, but gave differing reasons for why she did it.

At one point, she told police she was trying to help her son. At another, she said she needed the money to pay bills. And at still another, she said she was trying to "help people who are poor and starving."

"I have never seen anything like this," Popovich said. "I have no idea what possessed her to do this. She's anybody's grandmother. It was very bold, and very, very strange."

Devine walked into the bank in a Shop-n-Save supermarket in West Mifflin around 10:30 a.m. She wore a black and gold, knit Steelers cap pulled over her face with eye holes cut out of it. Tufts of gray hair stuck out from the cap.

She approached one teller, pulled out a 9 mm handgun, handed the man a white garbage bag and demanded money, police said. The teller complied.

Devine then walked to an adjacent teller with the same demand, Popovich said. Devine instructed that teller, a woman, not to put an exploding dye pack into the bag, police said.

A woman who witnessed the drama followed Devine out of the store, and saw her climb into a tan Ford Escort. The witness then called 911.

Police spotted the vehicle and followed it across Lebanon Church Road, onto Delwar Road and across railroad tracks onto Streets Run Road into Baldwin Borough. At one point, Devine's car got stuck in traffic and officers from West Mifflin and Baldwin approached on foot in an attempt to stop her. Devine sped around the police and other cars stopped there.

A city tow truck driver finally halted the chase a few miles down the road, pulling his rig into Devine's path, allowing police to box her in at the intersection of Joseph and Agnew streets.

Inside the car, police found the white garbage bag filled with about $5,300, an unloaded black pistol registered to Devine's husband and the Steelers hat she used to conceal her face, Popovich said.

Raymond Devine said he left the couple's home about 8 a.m. to run some errands and returned around 11 a.m. to find a note from his wife on the kitchen table. The note said Marilyn Devine had taken her grown son to the doctor, Raymond Devine said.

Minutes later, Raymond Devine got a phone call from a friend who said he had been monitoring a police scanner and heard that Marilyn Devine had robbed a bank and led police on a chase.

"I just don't know what to think about this," he said. "Why did she do this?"

Raymond Devine said his wife has no history of mental illness or dementia. He said she has two grown sons from a previous marriage and two grandchildren, with a third grandchild due at the end of the month.

She was arraigned before West Mifflin District Judge Richard D. Olasz Jr. on charges of simple assault, robbery, theft, carrying a firearm without a license and fleeing and eluding. She was being held last night at the Allegheny County Jail on $100,000 bond.

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