Crime

Bellingham man pleads guilty to stealing thousands of dollars in knifepoint robberies

Listen to police dispatch calls from hotel robberies in Bellingham

Bellingham Police are investigating a recent rash of six armed robberies and attempted robberies at knifepoint of motels located along the Meridian Street corridor since Jan. 16, 2019.
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Bellingham Police are investigating a recent rash of six armed robberies and attempted robberies at knifepoint of motels located along the Meridian Street corridor since Jan. 16, 2019.

A Bellingham man has pleaded guilty to 14 felonies related to 12 knifepoint robberies of area motels and marijuana shops in late January and early February.

Michael Dean James, 26, pleaded guilty Thursday in Whatcom County Superior Court to seven counts of first-degree robbery, five counts of attempted first-degree robbery, one count of first-degree theft and one count of witness tampering.

James’ sentencing is scheduled for 8: 30 a.m. on March 28.

James stole more than $10,000 during a 23-day spree, according to court records. No one was hurt during any of the robberies.

James was initially arrested Feb. 7, after he stole $5,560 in cash at knifepoint from 2020 Solutions on Iron Street. After James robbed the store, a 1997 gray Honda Odyssey was seen leaving the area at a high rate of speed, according to court records. The van was later found at a gas station on Meridian, with two women inside. One of the tip jars stolen from 2020 Solutions was found inside the vehicle.

The two women, later identified as Angelica Evajune Willard, 26, and Cecelia Corrin Morris, 28, were arrested for their suspected roles in the cannabis store robbery. During interviews with police, Willard stated she drove Morris and James to the store.

Both Willard’s and Morris’s trials are tentatively scheduled for April 8.

After their arrests, Bellingham police looked at similarities between the other robberies that had occurred in recent weeks, which led them to believe James had committed 11 others between Jan. 16 and Feb. 7.

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Police released a surveillance photo of a motel robbery in January. Michael Dean James, 26, pleaded guilty Thursday in Whatcom County Superior Court to 12 knifepoint robberies of motels and marijuana shops in late January and early February. Bellingham Police Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

During many of the robberies, James wore similar distinctive clothing, carried a knife in one hand and a white bag in the other, and told employees not to touch the phones, according to court records. Multiple clothing items James was seen wearing in surveillance footage from the robberies, as well as a large stainless knife and tip jars were found when search warrants were served on the van and an apartment he was staying in, records state.

Timeline of robberies

Jan. 16 at 2:35 a.m. — James robbed the Baymont Inn at knifepoint, stealing $349.50 in cash before fleeing on foot.

Jan. 18 at 2:07 a.m. — James attempted to rob the Baymont Inn again, but because employees began locking the doors at night, he couldn’t get in and walked away.

Jan. 19 at 11:06 p.m. — James attempted to rob the Rodeway Inn, but an employee refused to give him money and he left on foot.

Jan. 20 at 2:55 p.m. — James robbed the Baymont Inn at knifepoint, leaving with $300 in cash.

Jan. 25 at 1:52 a.m. — James robbed the Best Western Heritage Inn, stealing the cash till with $320 in it. The till was later recovered, without the cash, in a swampy area between E. McLeod Road and Primrose Lane.

Jan. 26 at 7:52 p.m. — James attempted to rob the Baymont Inn at knifepoint again, but a female employee picked up a baseball bat and swung it at James. He left on foot without any money.

Jan. 29 at 10:59 p.m. — James attempted to rob the Quality Inn Baron Suites at knifepoint, but an employee threw items at him until he left on foot without any money.

Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. — James robbed the Dancing Gypsies cannabis dispensary at knifepoint, fleeing on foot with $211.

Jan. 31 at 6:18 p.m. — James robbed the North Point CBD & Organics at knifepoint, stealing $872 in cash and the tip jar on the way out.

Feb. 3 at 5:13 p.m. — James stole $2,918 in cash at knifepoint from 2020 Solutions and fled. After James left, video surveillance footage was reviewed and a suspicious gray van was seen on video pulling up to the business and backing out just prior to the robbery.

Feb. 7 at 10 p.m. — James robbed the 2020 Solutions store again at knifepoint, stealing $5,550 in cash and the tip jar with $50-60 inside.

Feb. 7 at 12:30 a.m. — James jumped the counter and demanded money at the Days Inn, but a female employee told she saw him coming and already called police. James left without any money. Surveillance footage from Trove Cannabis across the street showed a light-colored minivan or SUV circling the Days Inn twice prior to the robbery and leaving the area after the robbery.

Reporter Denver Pratt joined The Bellingham Herald in 2017 and covers courts and criminal and social justice. She has worked in Montana, Florida and Virginia.
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