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Lowney pleads guilty to charges from Bank of Clarke County robbery
By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- A city woman faces prison time for robbing a Frederick County bank in May to help pay her boyfriend's back child support.
Crystal Marie Lowney, 21, of 2958 Valley Ave., pleaded guilty in Frederick County Circuit Court on Monday to one count each of robbery and use of a firearm in commission of the felony.
Lowney's attorney, Anne Williams, said she and the commonwealth did not reach an agreement in the case and her client made the choice to enter guilty pleas to the charges.
Judge John Prosser accepted the guilty pleas and revoked Lowney's bond. Prosser scheduled her sentencing for March 10.
Lowney robbed the Bank of Clarke County, 3360 Valley Pike, on May 11, according to authorities. She made off with $2,295, all of which authorities recovered and returned.
Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Andrew Robbins said Lowney entered the bank at about 8:45 a.m., wearing a sunglasses, a hooded pull-over sweater and a black backpack. Lowney approached a teller and, while holding what appeared to be a handgun, gave the employee a note written on orange paper.
The note stated "Give me all the cash you have. Keep your hands where I can see them. You have three minutes," Robbins said.
The teller placed the cash on the counter and Lowney put the money in the backpack. Lowney went across the street and entered a vehicle which she then drove home, Robbins said. At some point, Lowney dropped the firearm, which Robbins said was a pellet gun she had taken from a toy box at her home.
Once at home the defendant changed clothes, then drove to Shenandoah County.
Authorities stated Lowney robbed the bank to get money to help free her boyfriend who, at the time, was incarcerated in the Shenandoah County Jail for failing to pay back child support. Later that day authorities received an anonymous tip and found Lowney at the Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
Investigators executed a search warrant on Lowney's residence and recovered sunglasses believed to have been worn by the defendant in the robbery. Investigators also found a pad of orange paper with additional notations about the robbery, Robbins said.
After finding Lowney guilty, Prosser asked about her bond status. Robbins asked the court to revoke her bond, noting that a charge of use of a firearm carries a mandatory minimum term of three years in prison. Robbery carries a sentence of five years to life.
"This is a violent crime involving a simulated firearm," Robbins said. "There is no [way to] ensure her appearance for sentencing."
Lowney had been free on bond since July, Williams noted. The defendant has no prior criminal convictions but does have children in her care. Lowney also was scheduled to appear for a job interview later Monday.
"This case is different than it was yesterday," Prosser said after he ordered Lowney's bond revoked.
Outside the courtroom, Williams said she would ask for the minimum sentence her client could receive -- three years for the gun charge and suspension of any time given for the robbery conviction.
"We weren't able to reach an agreement with the commonwealth," Williams said. "As her counsel I respect her decision to plead guilty without trial."
Williams said she and her client knew the judge could have ruled either way on the request to allow Lowney to remain free on bond.