A man accused of robbing a Willard grocery store also is suspected of committing similar crimes in several parts of southern Ohio.
Michael J. Fette, 46, of Lancaster, is charged with aggravated robbery in connection with an incident Sunday at Missler's IGA in Willard. If convicted of the first-degree felony, he faces three to 11 years in prison.
The Bellefontaine Police Department investigated a May 24 incident in which he is accused of robbing Community Markets.
On Wednesday, authorities issued a warrant for Fette through Bellefontaine Municipal Court on one count each of aggravated robbery and kidnapping, according to court records.
Logan County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Eric Stewart told the Bellefontaine Examiner that Willard officers contacted Bellefontaine police once they noticed similarities to their case and the robberies elsewhere. The Examiner also reported Fette "is also a suspect in similar robberies in Champaign, Athens, Pickaway and Knox counties."
Willard Police Chief Mark Holden explained the situation to the Reflector.
"We put out a teletype order to other jurisdictions and we have received several notifications from southern counties about similar robberies," he said.
Holden said the other robberies have a "similar M.O." and happened "over the last few months."
Willard police have been collaborating with the Ohio Attorney General's Office, Bellefontaine police and other agencies about Fette's suspected crime spree. Holden said his officers' investigation helped other authorities identify Fette.
"It looks like we will be able to help them close their cases that they had open," Holden said. "Our case is our case. Our case is done."
In Willard, while Fette complied with officers' instructions after he was apprehended at gunpoint, he reportedly refused to speak with investigators.
Police were alerted about the armed robbery through a tipster who was near Missler's. The man reported seeing a suspicious vehicle parked near a trash receptacle.
"He was a scrapper down there looking for scrap. ... He actually came up to the station and flagged down the officer and told us we should take a look," Holden said.
Janet Missler, who owns Missler's IGA with her husband John, talked about the robbery with the Reflector. The couple arrived at the store at closing time Sunday night when Fette came out of the back room.
"Out walks this tall guy," Janet Missler said. "Once he put his arm straight out with a gun in his hand and told John and I to get into the office, we knew what was happening."
Missler's husband managed to leave, fled to the nearby Pin Oak Apartments and had somebody call 9-1-1.
"He's got a gun pointing at you," Missler said about Fette.
"The gun was cocked. ... He wasn't messing around. At first we were going to do what he was telling us to do. He told us to get in the back room."
The woman suspects Fette's plans changed when she and her husband walked in on the robbery and after John fled the building. Missler said the suspect was going to use zip ties to tie up her and her two employees and Fette said after he left he was going to call police.
"He (Fette) went into the office and grabbed the money. Everything was happening so fast that night," Missler said. "Nobody got hurt, but we are all shook up.
"He did threaten my husband. It was not a good situation at all."
When an officer arrived, he noticed a man walking toward a parked vehicle. After a brief chase, Fette was arrested.
Police recovered more than $29,000 in cash, a 9 mm handgun, extra ammunition, zip ties and a hat Fette reportedly was wearing when he walked into the store. When the vehicle was recovered and searched, officers said they found more ammunition, two more bags of zip ties and the suspect's ID card.
Missler praised police for their quick work.
"They did an excellent job. Everybody was where they needed to be. Everybody was right where they were supposed to be that night. Everybody did their part. We have personally thanked the police and talked to the man who was looking for metal," she said.
Fette must post a $150,000 bond before being released from the Huron County Jail.