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Suspect cleared of bank heists

MANATEE — One man was arrested by deputies and another was cleared of charges Thursday in connection to two armed bank robberies.

Jamie Ray Vickers, 41, sat in his defense attorney’s office Thursday evening surrounded by family members who professed his innocence since his arrest last week.

“I would wake up and think, ‘God, this has got be a nightmare,’” he said. “Why were they coming for me?”

Vickers was at his mother’s residence with his family during a July 17 bank robbery at Fifth Third Bank in the 5300 block of 26th Street West, according to court testimony.

Instead, Roger Woodrow Jones, 55, of Bradenton was escorted out of the sheriff’s office in doubled hand cuffs Thursday afternoon after he reportedly told detectives he robbed the Fifth Third Bank location on April 28 and July 17 at gunpoint. He was arrested at his home in the 2900 block of 50th Avenue West. He now faces two charges of armed robbery.

“I’m just glad they got him,” Vickers said with tears occasionally welling up.

Detectives arrested Jones after they found evidence at his home including money, and after two tellers at the bank identified him, said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dave Bristow.

Detectives developed probable cause to arrest Vickers after a bank manager picked his photo out of a photo pack and after Vickers’ brother, Daniel, told detectives it was Vickers in the bank robbery photos, according to the arrest warrant.

In court, Daniel Vickers said one of the photos of the bank robbers looked similar to his brother. He said he didn’t think his brother would rob a bank though.

Bank employees told detectives a white van was seen heading south on 25th Street West after the robbery. According to the warrant, detectives saw a white van parked at Vickers’ residence. Nothing in the warrant identified the van as the same one used in the robbery.

“It was a case where we still had probable cause to make an arrest, but we’re certainly glad we have the right guy now,” Bristow said. “The guy was let out over the weekend and had to spend a short time in jail.”

The bank robber suspect was clean shaven.

Mark Lipinski, who is representing Vickers, said he took surveillance footage from Wal-Mart and other businesses showing Vickers with a full grown goatee on July 17.

Vickers said it would take a couple of months to regrow his goatee had he shaved it. He was arrested July 26 — six days after the bank robbery. He was charged with one count of armed robbery for the July 17 heist.

Lipinski said Vickers also has a different build than the bank robber shown in surveillance photos.

“What if we didn’t get a lawyer right away? What if we didn’t remember everything we did that day?” said Elizabeth Click, Vickers’ mother.

Click said she watched her son limp out of the jail over the weekend.

Vickers went from having a $150,000 bond to being released on his own recognizance and walking out of the jail Sunday morning.

Had her family not been proactive in professing his innocence, she believes her son would still be in jail facing a life sentence.

They had sleepless nights and had scrounged for receipts, retracing their steps on July 17 to prove Vickers’ innocence, she said.

“I’m not a mom who stands up for my kids when they do something wrong, but I know he didn’t do it. He was at my home,” Click said. “This has made out family closer.”

Family members did not comment on whether they had plans to sue the sheriff’s office. Vickers did say he wants an apology.

“I’ve got some questions. I hope they have some answers,” said Lipinski in reference to the evidence surrounding Vickers’ arrest. “When someone is arrested, everyone always presumes they are guilty. ... How do you get your good name back?”

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