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Robbery suspect Whittlesey to return to U.S.

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

HARRISONBURG -- The man suspected of fleeing to Canada after a violent bank heist in Winchester in October is on his way back to Virginia after a court hearing in Vermont on Wednesday.

James Louis Whittlesey, 51, last known to live in Maryland, appeared in U.S. District Court in Vermont on Wednesday, the first indication the robbery suspect has returned to the country from Canada, according to online records.

Whittlesey remained defiant as he faced a federal judge and denied that authorities had the same man charged in the bank heist, online records showed.

U.S. Judge William K. Sessions III held an identity hearing at Whittlesey's request.

"Court makes findings and determines that this person is in fact the same person as named in Indictment in Western District of Virginia," court records state.

Sessions ordered Whittlesey detained and transferred to the Western District of Virginia where he stands charged in the district court in Harrisonburg with bank robbery by force or violence, a related firearms offense and unlawful possession of a gun.

FBI spokeswoman Dennette W. Rybieski confirmed in an e-mail Thursday that Whittlesey is in United States custody but she could not state when authorities would bring the defendant to Virginia.

Authorities accuse Whittlesey of robbing the United Bank on Berryville Avenue at gunpoint on Oct. 14. Whittlesey fired upon city police as he fled the bank and eventually eluded capture, according to law enforcement officials.

Authorities accuse Whittlesey of fleeing to Canada. Immigration and law enforcement officials in the country apprehended the suspect in Montreal. Whittlesey spent several months in Canadian custody before immigration officials in March ordered him returned to the United States.

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