Almanac: Criminal mastermind shoulda thought twice

Editor’s note: Details of the resolution to this 43-year-old story have not yet been unearthed by the Redoubt Reporter, but enough details of the actual event were available to provide for an entertaining narrative. 

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

The union of the name “Ronald Louis Anthony” and the phrase “criminal mastermind” is unlikely. Anthony himself made certain of that in May 1968 when his own poor planning caused the initial good fortune of his criminal enterprise to rapidly run awry.

Anthony’s target was the cash available in Nikiski at the Mallard Park Branch of Alaska State Bank. It must have seemed like a reasonably easy target since it was located in a 12-by-60-foot trailer house in the Mallard Trailer Park about 9.5 miles north of Kenai.  (Work on the new building that would eventually house the Mallard Park Branch was slated to begin later that summer.)

Despite the seeming “sitting duck” nature of the bank branch, Mary Susan Roberts, who was interviewed by Alaska State Troopers shortly after the robbery, said that Anthony “seemed very nervous” during the process of his crime. It turns out that he had plenty of reasons to be on edge.

Wearing wraparound sun-glasses and white coveralls trimmed in red, Anthony drove a borrowed cream-colored Volkswagen Beetle to the trailer park. Inside the bank, according to archived documents released by the Alaska Department of Public Safety, he went immediately into action. (The date was May 23. The time was 1:45 p.m.)

“I noticed this man come in because he turned to me and asked if the manager was in because he wanted to cash a check,” Roberts said. “I said he didn’t need the manager, and then he pulled a revolver and said, ‘Give me all the money you’ve got.’

“I began putting some money on the counter in front of my window, and he said, ‘That’s not enough. Give me the rest of it.’ I picked up the trays and dumped the money on the counter, and he began scooping it into his coveralls.” 

The pile of loot, according to Roberts, totaled $4,572, mostly in $5 and $20 bills, with a few singles. The bank had logged the serial numbers of most of the 20s, making them easier to trace.

And despite having a gun leveled at her by a nervous thief, Roberts managed later to provide AST officers Lawrence and Guzialek with a clear and mostly accurate description. She guessed that the perpetrator must be 25 to 28 years old; he was in fact 28.

She thought he stood 6 feet tall or just a little taller; he was exactly 6 feet tall. She thought he weighed 180 to 185 pounds, but in fact he weighed only 165.

She also said that he had dark brown hair and a dark complexion and was smoking a long cigarette during the robbery.

Before he departed the bank, Anthony told Roberts to lie on the floor and stay put until he left. “When I heard his car door shut, I ran to the window and saw a light-colored Volkswagen leaving the driveway, but I was unable to get a license number,” Roberts said.

At 1:48 p.m., only three minutes after the robbery, Roberts telephoned the troopers and reported the crime. At 1:55 p.m., just seven minutes later, Troopers found a cream-colored Volkswagen parked behind the Christianson Camp, a gas field construction camp located only four miles from the Mallard Park Branch and in the direction that Roberts had noticed Anthony driving away. Eight minutes after that, at 2:03 p.m., officers were at Mallard Trailer Park interviewing Roberts for more details.

Because of the nature of the crime, the Troopers made a call to the FBI office in Anchorage, and two federal officers, Jim H. Frazier and Robert V. Walker, were dispatched to the peninsula to assist in the investigation.

At the Christianson Camp, troopers located the camp operator, Ted Erlwein, who explained that the Volkswagen belonged to his daughter, Beverly, and that Anthony had been using the vehicle because his was being repaired at North Road Motors, less than a quarter mile down the road from the camp.

Troopers checked at North Road Motors and learned that Anthony was now in possession of a 1963 Thunderbird, after having paid Tommy Dally, the owner of the vehicle, $335 in cash.

In searching the premises, Troopers discovered a trash barrel containing three name patches “resembling those found on coveralls” and bearing the name of Peninsula Chrysler Center in Kenai.

At 3:10 p.m. — less than an hour and a half after the robbery — investigators contacted Peninsula Chrysler’s manager, Ernie Roe, who told them that Anthony had worked for him as a service manager for about two months during the winter and had had access to white-and-red coveralls like those described by Roberts.

Later, investigators would learn that Anthony, an Alaska resident for about 10 years, had previously lived in Anchorage but had been in the Soldotna area, living in apartment No. 12 of the River Terrace Motel, for about five months. After working for Peninsula Chrysler, Anthony quit and told Roe that he needed to go out of state because of a family death.

When he returned to the Kenai Peninsula, he became an employee of Les’ Y Chevron in Soldotna, and less than a month later, he was “released from service” there, according to the filling station’s assistant manager, Les Anderson.

At some point that afternoon, investigators found Anthony, sitting in his T-Bird at Mile 10 of the Kenai Spur Highway, only about 10 miles away from the scene of his crime. He was escorted back to the Christianson Camp, where he signed a waiver of search for the Volkswagen and his own residence.

On the floor of the car, investigators discovered a large-caliber revolver and a pair of wraparound sunglasses. In the glove compartment, they found a large portion of the stolen money. In searching the trash at the Christianson Camp, they also recovered a red hat and a pair of white-and-red coveralls.

By 8 p.m., about six hours after the commission of his crime, Anthony was arrested, charged with armed robbery, released to the custody of the FBI, and lodged in the Kenai Jail while awaiting transportation to Anchorage.

After being transferred to Anchorage the next day, Anthony was arraigned on a federal warrant before Judge James A. Hansen. Anthony pleaded not guilty, and his bail was set at $30,000. He was later found guilty and sentenced to prison.

On May 24, just a day after the crime, the Cheechako News blared the headline “North Kenai Bank Robbed,” and announced in its second paragraph that investigating officers had reported that Anthony had been scheduled on the day of his crime to be married at 6 p.m.

He did not attend the ceremony, and at least one longtime Soldotna resident remembers hearing that Anthony left his bride-to-be and a wedding party waiting for him at the River Terrace Motel. (The family of the abandoned bride, which was heartbroken and “terribly embarrassed” by Anthony’s actions, has asked to keep her identity private.)

Justice in the case of Ronald Louis Anthony was swift, aided by the machinations of a man who would never be known as a criminal mastermind.

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