Mansfield man identified as armed robber

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:59 AM

Victim Angie (Trimble) Risner expressed confidence Wednesday in identifying the suspect in the May 15 armed robbery in Greenwich.

"The face. You don't forget the face," the former Mickey Mart clerk said. "That's all I'd seen that day was his face."

Risner's voice cracked slightly when she identified the hooded black sweatshirt that defendant James R. Porter reportedly wore.

Porter, 28, of Mansfield, faces one count each of aggravated robbery, robbery and theft. Attorneys gave their closing arguments in Porter's Huron County Common Pleas Court trial this morning.

Risner said Porter entered the store about five minutes after she had been taking the trash to the dumpster. He gave the clerk two dimes and five pennies and reportedly asked Risner for a quarter.

"He wanted all the money (in the register). He pulled a gun on me," the victim said. "I stood back and let him have the money. ... He took the money and ran."

Porter denied multiple times he committed the robbery when he testified in his own defense.

"I did not rob that store," he said. "I've never stolen anything that wasn't given to me or purchased by me."

On May 15, the defendant said he intended to use $20 to buy six to seven tons of gravel, which he could sell for about $100 at a gravel pit on the southeast side of Shiloh.

The suspect said he was driving his father's dump truck without a license when the hood went straight up, smashing the windshield. The incident happened about a mile outside of Greenwich. Porter said he managed to get the hood resecured, but got a cut on his face in the process, and returned to his father's Maple Street home.

Porter said he then went to his neighbor's Tilton Street home to get a ride to his father's work in Shelby to confess about the damage to the truck. The defendant said he was attempting to be a "successful citizen," by admitting to what happened and making some money that day by selling pallets, which his dad saves for him, to another business.

"My neighbor asked me for a ride," said Brandon Mills, who lives diagonally next door to where Porter lives occasionally. Mills quoted Porter: "Nobody will give me a ride. I'll give you $20.

"He was just in a hurry to get out of Greenwich," said Mills, who used back roads to drive Porter to Shiloh. Porter said he got another ride from his aunt's house in Shiloh to Shelby.

Mills testified Porter had "a big hole in his face" that was hard to miss during the drive. He described it as scabbed, but not bleeding. Risner, the victim, didn't mention the wound to police and said she'd never seen Porter before May 15.

Risner accused Porter of keeping the handgun in his left hand while he reached over with his right hand to grab the money from the cash register drawer. Porter, who is right-handed, later testified he never uses his left hand for anything, except maybe to drive.

Defense attorney David Longo said the robber might have been "a south paw."

Former Greenwich Police Chief Kevin VerBurg later agreed with Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler that it's possible Porter used his left hand to hold the handgun only to frighten Risner and use his dominant hand to get the money. If that was true, Leffler said, that decision could be considered "calculating," similar to Porter asking for change for a quarter.

Porter said he can't fully bend his left pinkie after a boating accident that broke all the tendons in his hand about 10 years ago. The defendant flexed his hands to show the jury, but he was able to fully-form a fist at least once.

He is accused of fleeing the convenience store on a bicycle with $591. Risner said she saw "a guy on a bike on the right side of the building" before the robbery. She noted what was unusual was the person was wearing a sweatshirt on a hot day.

Risner was a clerk at Mickey Mart for four years before being fired after the business changed hands. Former owner Brian Coles, of Milan, called Risner "the best employee I had."

Porter's stepmother currently is the manager of the Greenwich Mickey Mart. She was the New Washington manager in mid-May.

Tracy Porter, during a break, said the decision to fire Risner was a corporate one, not hers.

"They all lost their jobs when Brian walked out. We rehired who we wanted," Porter's stepmother said.

"It's my worst nightmare that somebody would do (this) exact crime to one of the most important women in my life," said Porter, who admitted to having domestic disputes with Tracy.

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