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April 16, 2014

Sketch leads to attempted robbery suspect

ELK RAPIDS — A forensic sketch of a suspect in an attempted pharmacy robbery in Elk Rapids helped village police nab a potential culprit.

Vernon Joseph Robert, 27, of Elk Rapids, faces an unarmed robbery charge. He’s scheduled to appear Thursday for a preliminary examination in 86th District Court.

Elk Rapids Police Chief Tom Emerson said officers believe Robert is the masked suspect who walked behind the counter at the Corner Druggist on Nov. 18 and demanded drugs.

Employees shooed the suspect from the store and that prompted a four-month investigation that led to Robert’s arrest on April 2.

“It was a lot of good, old-fashioned footwork,” Emerson said.

Emerson said a police sketch from a witness who saw the suspect’s unmasked face may have provided the best break in the case. He said the sketch and suspect description reminded an officer of a man to whom he recently served a subpoena: Vernon Joseph Robert.

“Because of all that, it all kind of came together,” Emerson said.

Officer Thomas Near said the case’s drug aspects led village police to ask Traverse Narcotic Team detectives for help.

Investigators spent months interviewing and tracking witnesses and Robert’s associates before they were confident enough to bring the case to Antrim County prosecutors. TNT officers served Robert with a warrant at Grand Traverse County’s jail, where he’d been held on unrelated charges.

Eighty-sixth District Court records show Robert is scheduled for plea hearings in two separate retail fraud cases, among other open cases.

His defense attorney Shawn Worden couldn’t be reached for comment.



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