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Mono remains may belong to Bishop bank robbery suspect

June 4, 2012

This image captured by Chase Bank security cameras shows a man believed to be Steven Wiswell as he robbed the bank in March of 2010. Authorities believe they found Wiswell’s remains near Benton earlier this week. Surveillance photo courtesy Bishop Police Department

A grim discovery in Mono County earlier this week may have re-opened the book on a two-year-old bank robbery case out of Bishop.
Mono sheriff’s deputies located the remains Tuesday of a man believed to be Steven Craig Wiswell, the suspect in the March 17, 2010 armed robbery of Bishop’s Chase Bank.
According to Mono County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Robert Weber, deputies were notified about 3 p.m. May 22 that residents in the Benton area had possibly found a human skull off a dirt road, in tall sage brush, on the west side of U.S. 6 near Benton.
“A search of the area was conducted and additional remains were located,” Weber said via press release. “Positive identification of the remains has not yet been determined, however, identification belonging to (Wiswell) was located within the clothing of the remains.”
Weber said he believes the cause of death was a gun shot wound.
Authorities said back in 2010 that Wiswell may have fled the state, given his profession as a long-haul trucker. They pursued all leads, even after a suicide note, allegedly written by Wiswell, was found a week after the robbery at his residence on Clark Ranch Road in Benton, and friends of Wiswell came forward, claiming the fugitive may have committed suicide.
The remains were located near Wiswell’s former residence in Benton.
Mono County authorities said they are awaiting the results a dental analysis and possibly DNA testing to positively identify the remains. Weber said DNA tests can take up to four weeks.
Tuesday’s discovery has nevertheless provided what may be the first lead in a case that has been considered cold for nearly two years.
According to the Bishop Police Department, a man matching Wiswell’s description entered the Main Street bank, flashed a gun at the teller from the waistband of his pants, and demanded money.
In all, he got away with about $2,300 in cash.
After using surveillance footage from the bank to identify the robber as Wiswell, authorities deemed him “armed and dangerous” since he was known to have two pistols registered to his name, a 9mm and .44 magnum. He was also believed to be in possession of hollow-point bullets and, according to law enforcement at the time, had suicidal tendencies.
Investigators matched the description of the gun used in the robbery to a chrome-plated .44 magnum Ruger Blackhawk pistol, registered to Wiswell.
Weber said a rusted 9mm firearm was located near the remains in Benton, and deputies are currently working to determine its serial number in hopes of comparing it to the weapons registered to Wiswell.
Kathleen Sheehan, Bishop Police chief at the time of the robbery, said shortly after the incident that Wiswell had a history of methamphetamine use and also liked to gamble. At the time, she said that she was afraid for the safety of the public and local businesses as Wiswell only got away with approximately $2,500.
Shortly after the robbery, Wiswell was recorded on surveillance cameras as entering the casino between 10:40 and 10:45 p.m. and receiving $10 worth of free slot play for being a casino Player’s Club member and truck driver. The pants and boots of Wiswell also matched those of the suspect from bank cameras.
Weber said that the wallet located near the remains contained $520 cash, and deputies are currently working to compare the serial numbers with those that were stolen from Chase in 2010.
Bishop Police Public Information Officer Katie Coffman said the Mono County Sheriff’s Department notified Bishop Police Detective Brian Rossy of the remains Wednesday but, as of Friday morning, no updates to the department’s file on Wiswell had been made.
Rossy was unavailable for comment Friday.


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