By Jeff Shultz
Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes credits good old-fashioned police work – with a little help from some high tech tools – for the arrest of the man wanted for the robbery of the First American Bank in Maysville.
“His arrest came after law enforcement officers from several states were able to share information on him,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes was notified on July 4 that Joshua M. Beckstead, 32, AKA Ben Wolters, had been arrested by the Bismarck, North Dakota police and was being held by the Bismarck PD until he could be turned over to the FBI.
The first break in the case was when the Garvin County Sheriff’s Office received two tips about a man who resembled the suspect in the First American bank robbery on June 9.
Lt. David Lansdale of the Garvin County Sheriff’s Office had gone to the Economy Inn in Pauls Valley to check up on one tip.
Lansdale stated in his report that he made contact with a Lindsey Phillips at the motel who stated the man in the surveillance photos matched the description of a man named “Ben Wolters” who had approached her that Saturday morning and asked if she would give him a ride to Maysville for a job interview.
Beckstead offered to pay her $10 for her trouble.
Phillips told Lt. Lansdale she agreed to take him to Maysville and once they had arrived in Maysville she stopped at the Dollar General Store shortly before 11 a.m., allowing Beckstead to leave on foot while she shopped in the store.
Phillips said Beckstead returned to the store around 11:10 a.m. that morning, purchased a bottle of water and began requesting that Phillips leave with him on multiple occasions while she was finishing her shopping.
In addition to Phillips’ information, a bus driver from Delta Community Action contacted the Sheriff’s Office around the same time and told investigators he had given Beckstead several bus rides in and around Pauls Valley days prior to the bank robbery.
“The bus driver told us that (Beckstead) had been asking him about different banks in the area,” Rhodes said.
Investigators also learned that Beckstead had boarded a bus around 3 p.m. on the day of the bank robbery and took a Greyhound bus to Norman.
At Norman he then purchased a bus ticket to Dallas and from Dallas he traveled by bus to Missoula, Montana.
“Ironically, he traveled back through Pauls Valley on the day of the robbery on his way to Dallas,” Rhodes said.
Lansdale confirmed that Beckstead had arrived in Missoula on the following Sunday, June 10.
Rhodes said his office’s investigation also revealed that Beckstead had several tattoos on his arms, including one of a large catfish.
“According to those we interviewed he liked to fish a lot and in fact went fishing on Rush Creek in Pauls Valley prior to the bank robbery,” Rhodes said.
The Utah Connection
A few days after the bank robbery, Lansdale posted a description of Beckstead on an information sharing web site used by law enforcement officials across the nation.
“After he had posted the information, we received a call from a detective in Ogden, Utah, who informed us that Beckstead fit the description a man who had been arrested several years ago for some burglaries in the Ogden area,” Rhodes said.
The Ogden Police sent a mug shot of Beckstead to Lansdale. Using the clear mug shot of Beckstead, a photo lineup was presented to the First American Bank teller who waited on him during the robbery.
The teller, Rhodes said, immediately picked him out of the line up.
“That’s when we learned his real name,” Rhodes said.
Lansdale then entered the new information, including Beckstead’s real name and the warrant for his arrest, into the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC)
By then Beckstead was also wanted for a number of bank robberies in the Northwest United States, including one bank robbery in Wyoming, which occurred after the Maysville bank robbery.
The suspect in that bank robbery fit the description of Beckstead and basically robbed the Wyoming bank in the same method as the Maysville bank.
‘A Good Fish’
Beckstead managed to elude the law until the Bismarck, North Dakota police began investigating a string of burglaries that occurred near the first of July.
According to Bismarck Detective Paul Olson, several businesses in the area had been hit in the Bismarck area and the investigations division of the Bismarck PD had a description of a possible suspect in the burglaries.
Olson said the suspect had had previous run-ins with the law and his office already had a mug shot of the suspect, who bore a resemblance to Beckstead.
“I was going from motel to motel with the mug shot of the suspect we thought was responsible for the burglaries,” Olson told the News Star.
“One motel manager looked at the photo and said the guy in the photo looked a lot like one of his tenants,” Olson added.
The tenant, which turned out to be Beckstead, had given the motel manager two different names and had always paid cash for his room, Olson said.
Based on the information provided by the motel manager, Olson and the Bismarck PD conducted a surveillance of Beckstead.
Believing Beckstead to be the person responsible for the burglaries, police located him outside a convenience store in Mandan, North Dakota and apprehended him after making a routine traffic stop on him.
It was during that traffic stop that Beckstead’s name popped up on the NCIC bulletin, which by then also included a warrant for his arrest in connection with the Wyoming bank robbery.
Bismarck Police were able to positively identify Beckstead due to the tattoos on his arms, especially the large catfish tattoo, Rhodes added.
Beckstead was placed into custody without incident and taken to the Bismarck Police Department for questioning concerning the recent rash of burglaries.
“We wanted to question him about the burglaries,” Olson said. “We didn’t mention the bank robberies. He had no idea we knew about the bank robberies.”
Olson said Beckstead fervently sought to clear himself of the burglaries, not knowing the police also knew about the alleged bank robberies.
“As it turned out he wasn’t our suspect in the burglaries,” Olson said. “He wasn’t the fish we were after, but he was a good fish.”
After Beckstead was questioned about the burglaries he was transported to the Burleigh County Detention Center to be turned over to the FBI in connection with a string of bank robberies across the nation.
Rhodes said Beckstead’s arrest was the culmination of several law enforcement agencies working together.
“In cooperation with the FBI, Ogden Police Department and Maysville Police Chief (Adam) McMillen, investigators conducted several interviews and followed up on tips called into the sheriff’s office that led to the identification of Beckstead as the person seen on (bank) surveillance video,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes also commended Lieutenant David Lansdale, Captain Travis Crawford and Deputy Bryon Gordon for their work in the investigation.
“They continued to work on this case even though we were most certain the suspect had left the Garvin County area. Their persistence in following-up on all possible leads in the case gave federal authorities the information they needed to connect Beckstead to the robberies in the Northwestern States.”
“Additionally, I want to thank the citizens in the Pauls Valley area for their cooperation in this investigation. Several persons had contact with Beckstead in the week prior to the Maysville robbery and came forward with information.”