Two bank robbery suspects in custody
By ERIC FRANCIS
CORRESPONDENT | January 23,2013
Sarah Priestap / VALLEY NEWS PHOTO
John T. Fenley looks back on the gallery after he was denied bail during his arraignment at criminal court in White River Junction on Tuesday. Fenley allegedly assisted in Thursday’s bank robbery in White River Junction.
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Both men suspected of robbing the People’s United Bank branch in downtown White River Junction are now in custody, one in Vermont, the other in Rhode Island.
On Tuesday afternoon the suspected getaway driver, John Fenley, 50, of White River Junction was ordered held without bail after he entered an innocent plea to a felony count of aiding in the commission of an assault and robbery.
Fenley’s childhood friend, Joe Petracca, 47, of Providence, R.I., was picked up in that state Sunday by detectives with the Cranston Police Department who also suspect Petracca of holding up a bank in their town on Jan. 15, and another bank in Cumberland, R.I., on Dec. 20. Police said Petracca was already on probation for a previous bank robbery in his home state.
It was allegedly during a visit by Petracca on Thursday that the plans to rob a bank or banks in White River Junction was hastily cooked up, police said.
Hartford detectives said that Fenley gave them a detailed confession following his arrest that included references to Petracca having a “bag of cocaine” and a desire to go “partying” if they could get more money.
According to court records, Fenley told police he drove Petracca to iParty supply store in West Lebanon, N.H., where Petracca, whose nickname is “face” because of some deep pock marks on his face, went in, and according to both Fenley and a clerk interviewed by police later, bought a stringy blonde wig with a fake mustache that was used later in the afternoon as a disguise.
Police said video tapes clearly show a suspect, believed to be Petracca, bicycling up to the front of the Mascoma Savings Bank on Sykes Mountain Avenue in White River Junction and briefly walking inside in the getup before something apparently spooks him and he walks back out.
Less than a half hour later a downtown resident spotted a man, believed to be Fenley, packing snow up against his license plates on a blue pickup about a block from the People’s United Ban, which was robbed just minutes later.
Shortly after the robbery a resident of Sykes Mountain Avenue spotted a blonde wig that had been discarded in a drainage ditch near the Butternut Lane intersection. Police swarmed the area searching nearby streets for any blue pickups and quickly spotted one matching the description of the getaway vehicle, right down to the cover on the back, parked in front of a trailer at the Chamber’s trailer park.
The trailer belonged to Fenley’s longtime girlfriend who told police he had left to go out with his friend from Rhode Island. From there the investigation quickly unfolded with Fenley brought in for questioning on Friday evening.
Vermont authorities intend to seek Petracca’s eventual extradition from Rhode Island to face an assault and robbery charge for People’s United and an attempted version of the same charge for the Mascoma entry.