State News

Suspected serial bank robber pleads guilty in Tennessee

Posted December 17, 2009 4:51 p.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2009 5:31 p.m. EST

— An Indianapolis man captured after a manhunt that stretched across the southern U.S. pleaded guilty Thursday to bank robbery and other charges in Tennessee.

Similar charges are also pending against 36-year-old Chad Schaffner in North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, the Justice Department said in a news release.

He was captured in Missouri in September, after the FBI turned to electronic billboards when more traditional techniques failed. Schaffner was identified as a suspect within 24 hours after bank surveillance photos were placed on wall-size electronic highway signs in eight states.

The suspect sometimes wore a red baseball cap but never tried to hide his face, which officials said was uncommon.

Schaffner pleaded guilty to the Tennessee robberies in U.S. District Court in Greeneville. He is to be sentenced Aug. 9, and prosecutors said they would seek a life sentence. The banks involved, in Morristown and Jefferson City, were both robbed Aug. 18.

Schaffner was arrested Sept. 12 in Kingdom City, Mo., some two weeks after the billboards started flashing the surveillance photos. He had been released from an Indiana prison last December after serving time for armed robbery.

Investigators said Thursday Schaffner told them he robbed banks to support a drug addiction.

Police said he robbed the Lumbee Guaranty Bank branch at 6313 Raeford Road in Fayetteville on July 6. He also is linked to bank robberies in Fletcher, Edenton and Hendersonville.

Linda Christina Davis of Morristown, his girlfriend, pleaded guilty Dec. 7 to accessory charges for allowing him to use her car and renting motel rooms in various states for him after robberies. She is to be sentenced May 3 in Greeneville and faces up to 12 1/2 years in prison.

Schaffner's FBI-posted picture appeared on electronic billboards in Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.