On December 15, 1992, a lone gunman robbed Forest Lake State Bank in Forest Lake, Minnesota of $13,370. The robber pulled a handgun out of a brown accordion file.
A month later, on January 15, 1993, a gunman who pulled a pistol out of a brown accordion file robbed Norwest Bank in Two Harbors, Minnesota—150 miles north of Forest Lake.
And on January 29, 1993, a gunman who drew a pistol out of an accordion file robbed St. Louis Bank for Savings in Duluth, Minnesota, escaping with $3,545.
On the night of the third robbery, a news report aired on television, which featured pictures from the bank surveillance camera at St. Louis Bank. A caller who did not leave a name called the Duluth police and said the robber looked like 26-year-old Shaun Deckinga.
On February 4, police went to Deckinga’s home in West Duluth. Deckinga and his girlfriend said that they were home on the day of the St. Louis Bank heist because Deckinga was ill. They had no recollection of their whereabouts on the dates of the two other robberies.
The FBI put together a photographic lineup and one teller from Norwest Bank and one from St. Louis Bank identified Deckinga as the man who robbed those banks. In addition, an acquaintance of Deckinga’s said that on the day of the St. Louis Bank robbery Deckinga was not home sick, but was with him shopping for snowmobile parts.
Deckinga was arrested on February 10, 1993 and charged with all three bank robberies.
On May 18, 1993, a bank in Grantsburg, Wisconsin—just over the border from Duluth—was robbed and the robber drew a pistol from a brown accordion file.
Deckinga went on trial in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis in June 1993. Three tellers identified Deckinga as the robber. Joseph Mahurin testified that he was in the same jail cell with Deckinga and that Deckinga had admitted committing the robberies. Mahurin had been an informant for local police on several occasions in the past and following his testimony against Deckinga, Mahurin was released three months early from his sentence.
On June 9, 1993, a jury convicted Deckinga of the St. Louis Bank and Norwest Bank robberies. He was acquitted of the Forest Lake robbery. Deckinga was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
One June 23, 1993—two weeks after Deckinga was convicted—a gunman robbed a bank in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin after pulling a pistol from an accordion file. A surveillance photo of that robbery was circulated among local law enforcement authorities and police recognized the man as Jerome Clepper, who ran an auto body shop. Clepper so closely resembled Deckinga that at one point Deckinga’s mother identified a photograph of Clepper as her son.
Police interviewed him and obtained a search warrant for his mobile home. On June 29, 1993, police found a pellet gun, a brown accordion file, and clothing which matched the description of clothing worn by the robber in the robberies for which Deckinga had been convicted. Clepper returned home during the search and while being questioned, he admitted that he had committed all five of the robberies. On July 1, 1993, at the request of the prosecution, Deckinga’s convictions were vacated, the charges against him were dismissed and he was released.
– Maurice Possley