Asheville, NC (ACT) -- A father tried to steer investigators off course right after his masked son held up a Biltmore Forest bank in a plot hatched by the duo, a prosecutor said Tuesday in opening arguments to a Buncombe County jury.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Hess said John Burton Edmonds Jr., 59, was inside Forest Commercial Bank posing as a customer when James Ryan Edmonds, 25, burst into the bank, pointed a gun at a worker and grabbed more than $5,000 in cash.
The elder Edmonds ran after his escaping son, pretending he was attempting to follow the robber, then tried to mislead officers about where he had gone, Hess said.
John Edmonds and James Edmonds are standing trial in Buncombe County Superior Court on charges of robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
"These two defendants conspired together," the prosecutor said. "We'll ask you to find both defendants guilty."
But defense attorney Robert Smith, who represents John Edmonds, said his client was merely a witness to the Dec. 8, 2011, robbery of the bank on Hendersonville Road.
"He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," Smith said. "He's innocent. There's no reason he couldn't have been there or shouldn't have been there."
Attorney Michael Macht, who represents James Edmonds, said that while authorities maintain his client left the scene in a getaway vehicle, a police dog tracked the robber through nearby woods.
A woman also said she spotted a suspect crouched down in the area, he said. Macht said the investigation was "sloppy" and targeted only the two suspects.
Authorities said the defendants were arrested 15 days after the robbery at a residence on South Liberty Street in Asheville, where the son lived at the time and the father was moving in.
Hess said James Edmonds was dressed all in black except for a blue ski mask covering his head during the robbery. Police said John Edmonds gave investigators false information about what the robber was wearing, and his statements were contradicted by surveillance video and the accounts of bank workers.
Cellphone records place James Edmonds near the bank at the time of the robbery, Hess said.
John Edmonds was convicted in July 2012 in Buncombe County of drug trafficking and sentenced to more than eight years in prison, according to N.C. Department of Public Safety records. His previous felony convictions include forgery, larceny by employee and possession of a firearm by felon.
Records state James Edmonds spent three months in prison following his conviction in August of obtaining property by false pretense.
Written By: Clarke Morrison, Asheville Citizen-Times