Tahlequah Daily Press

September 20, 2013

Investigators detail armed robbery of local business

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Two Cherokee County residents remained behind bars Thursday night after allegedly confessing to their parts in an armed robbery of the Caney Ridge Best Stop on State Highway 100 early Wednesday morning.

James Kelley, 23, and his girlfriend, Melanie Davis, 32, were being held at the Cherokee County Detention Center. They were expected to appear before a judge, where bonds could be set, on Friday.

Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said the robbery occurred at 6:33 a.m. Wednesday. Deputies Robert Sparks and Dexter Scott responded, and viewed surveillance footage showing the suspect getting out of a dark-colored Chrysler PT Cruiser, which was missing a hubcap on the back driver’s-side wheel.

The suspect, wearing jeans, a maroon-colored hooded sweatshirt, white gloves and a white face mask, approached the store’s cash register and demanded money from the cashier, who complied with the demands. The cashier was then forced onto the ground as the suspect left.

Chennault said nearly $770 in cash was taken.

“Deputy Scott felt he recognized the dark-colored Chrysler PT Cruiser as one he knew Melanie Davis and her boyfriend, James Kelley, frequently drove,” Chennault said.

Sheriff’s deputies, along with Cherokee Nation marshals and Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers, began searching for that vehicle.

Sheriff’s Investigator James Brown, Deputy Travis Miller and Chennault located the vehicle at around 5:40 p.m. on East 840 Road in a trailer park north of Keys Elementary School.

Davis was driving, and Kelley was in the front passenger seat. Two children were also in the car.

Davis first denied knowing anything about an armed robbery, and claimed Kelley had driver the car Wednesday morning to take three of her four children to school. She told investigators she stayed home to care for the fourth child, who was sick.

“Davis was adamant that she didn’t leave her home until later in the morning,” said Chennault.

When interviewed separately, Kelley also denied knowledge of the robbery, but told deputies he and Davis were dropping off her four children at her parents’ home in the Dry Creek area at 6:30 a.m.

When deputies confronted Davis about her story, she then allegedly confessed that Kelley asked her to drive him to Caney Ridge Best Stop after they dropped the children off, and said he was going to rob the store.

“Davis told me she didn’t want to be involved in robbing the store, but she felt she could not tell Kelley to not rob the store and didn’t want Kelley to approach or leave the store on foot,” Chennault said.

She told investigators she dropped Kelley off at the store, drove out of the parking lot and circled back around, eventually picking up Kelley after the robbery.

Davis denied knowing about a handgun.

“I asked Kelley to explain to me what happened during the robbery, [and] he stated, ‘Sounds like she told you everything,’” Chennault said.

Kelley told Chennault the gun used in the robbery was actually a toy, and said he had thrown it and the clothing he wore away.

Kelley told investigators there was more than $750 taken from the store, but that he and Davis had only about $200 left.

During the book-in process at CCDC, Kelley had $237.92, and Davis had $50, Chennault said.

Investigators obtained a search warrant Thursday morning and looked through the PT Cruiser, but were unable to locate any evidence of the robbery, Chennault said. Chennault, Brown and Investigator Justin Hackworth also executed a warrant on the suspects’ residence in Keys.

Brown located a black plastic BB gun between a mattress and box springs in the master bedroom, according to Chennault.

He said the gun looks like a Springfield-brand XD model, semi-automatic handgun.

-- jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com