Crime

Knifepoint robber sentenced for ‘one of the worst crime sprees in recent memory’

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 will spend more than a decade in prison for 12 knifepoint robberies of area motels and marijuana shops in late January and early February.

Michael Dean James, 27, was sentenced to 12½ years in prison, with 1 ½ years probation Thursday, Aug. 22, in Whatcom County Superior Court. James pleaded guilty to 14 felonies related to the robberies on Feb. 28.

“We had practically the entire Bellingham Police detective unit there. There were a lot of detectives involved, a lot of man hours and a lot of time. It was an exhaustive investigation, and there was quite the community impact and a lot of resources devoted toward catching this guy,” Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Erik Sigmar told The Bellingham Herald.

Sigmar said James also will be required to pay $5,583 in restitution. No victims spoke at the sentencing, but Sigmar said they told him it was a traumatic experience for them to be “confronted with a masked man with a knife while working behind a desk in an isolated setting late at night.”

Chief Deputy Public Defender Angela Anderson said James pleaded guilty almost immediately after the case was filed.

“I believe he truly feels sorry and wanted to take responsibility for his actions. The prosecutor clearly took that into account when we negotiated the sentence,” Anderson told The Bellingham Herald.

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

“This was a real serious case. It was one of the worst crime sprees in recent memory and it finally drew to a conclusion, and I think a good and appropriate conclusion,” Sigmar said.

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Bellingham Police are asking for the public’s help identifying a suspect in a robbery, which occurred Saturday in the 3700 block of Meridian Street. Bellingham Police Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

James was initially arrested Feb. 7 after he stole $5,560 in cash at knifepoint from 2020 Solutions on Iron Street. James left the scene in a 1997 gray Honda Odyssey with two women, who were later identified as Angelica Evajune Willard, 28, and Cecelia Corrin Morris, 28.

Both Willard’s and Morris’s trials are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 7.

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.

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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