Trial in Cumberland bank robbery begins

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GREENFIELD — The man accused of robbing a Cumberland bank last summer is appearing before a judge and jury this week.

Police say 47-year-old Harold Bryan of Lebanon walked into the Cumberland branch of the Greenfield Banking Co. in June and stole more than a thousand dollars in cash. But during the first day of the proceedings on Monday, his attorney tried to convince the 12-member panel of Hancock County residents that his client was misidentified.

The trial started with jurors hearing testimony from a key witness — the bank teller who interacted with the robber that summer morning.

Katheryn Dennemann told the jury she worked for Greenfield Banking Co.’s Cumberland branch for 22 years before she retired in September.

The robbery in June wasn’t the first she’d dealt with. And she’s certain — based on her own memory and police-provided photographs — that Bryan was the one who walked into the bank on June 2 and handed her a note demanding money.

Dennemann was on the stand for nearly two hours Monday, answering questions from deputy prosecutor Kevin Kelly and Bryan’s attorney, D.J. Davis of Greenfield.

Kelly, who is presenting the state’s case this week, tried to convince the jury that Bryan is guilty of robbery based on the witness’s testimony. But Davis sought to cast doubt on the state’s case by arguing that Bryan was misidentified by investigators and, therefore, innocent.

Dennemann told the jury the robber came into the bank around 11:30 a.m. that Saturday. He was wearing sunglasses and a hat — ignoring a sign posted on the door that instructed customers to remove such attire.

Dennemann said the man handed her a note; but when she tried to pick it up off the counter to read it, he grabbed it back from her. Instead, he leaned in and said, “This is a robbery. Give me all the 20s and 50s, and hurry up.”

Dennemann said she was scared but that she cooperated with the robber’s demands, as she’s taught to do. The man took the money she handed him and left in a hurry, not quite running but walking quickly, she said. A moment later, she saw a dark-colored car leave from the parking lot. She testified she wasn’t certain it was the robber’s car.

Dennemann told the jury she and colleagues called 911 after the robber fled. She gave the officers who arrived a few minutes later a description of the suspect: a medium-build, middle-aged, white or Hispanic man with dark hair, who was wearing a tan or yellow jacket, a ball cap and reflective sunglasses.

She repeated that description in court Monday.

But Davis wanted more detail.

The man’s hair was dark; but was it black or brown? he asked Dennemann. Was there a logo on the hat? How much did the man weigh?

Dennemann said she didn’t know those things.

Still photographs taken from security camera footage captured inside the bank on the day of the robbery showed the robber was at Dennemann’s teller station for less than a minute, evidence presented Monday showed.

Still, Dennemann said she was certain Bryan was the robber.

She identified him in a photo lineup police created and showed her a few days after the robbery. In the photo array, Bryan’s image was shown alongside images of five other men.

And Dennemann pointed to Bryan in court Monday with the same certainty.

According to court documents filed in the case, it was an officers from nearby police departments who pointed to Bryan as a suspect.

Detectives with the Cumberland Police Department, who were tasked with investigating the robbery, circulated an image of the robber to the community and other law enforcement agencies. Officers with several departments answered the call for information, all saying they believed the suspect was Bryan, whom their departments had dealt with in the past.

Detective Suzanne Woodland told the jury she used Bryan’s BMV profile — not the description of the suspect provided by witnesses — to create the photo array she later showed Dennemann and other bank workers.

Among her other descriptors, Dennemann had told police originally she though the robber was in his 30s and considered him overweight. Bryan is 47 and is 5-foot-6 and 195 pounds, according to testimony.

Woodland said she didn’t search for 30-year-olds in the computer program that generated the photo array used in the investigation. She only chose men who were similar in age and appearance to Bryan because other law enforcement officers had provided her with the name.

Both bank workers who were shown the photo array pointed to Bryan as the robber, Woodland testified

Davis noted that Bryan’s was the only photograph in the array that had a light-colored background; the five other images had dark backgrounds. According to Cumberland’s investigation policies, photos used in an array should be as similar as possible so that no characteristics will unfairly draw a person’s eye unfairly.

The trial was set to resume today at 8:30 a.m. in Hancock County Superior Court 1. Proceedings are open to the public.