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Aug 13, 2010 6:44 AM by Sharlee Barriere

Quiet Life for the "Granddad Bandit" Suspect

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Patsy Mara doesn't doubt the man the FBI
calls the "Granddad Bandit," suspected in a string of bank
robberies across the country, is her husband. The 61-year-old
schoolteacher, however, still has trouble reconciling the image of
a holdup man who snatched money from more than two dozen banks with
the gentle, loving husband she married just a year ago.
Michael Mara, 52, was arrested Wednesday after police and FBI
agents acting on a tip surrounded their modest home in Baton Rouge.
He surrendered peacefully after a nearly six-hour standoff.
"Did my husband who I was married to do that? Of course not.
Did Michael Mara, the guy who walked out this door with police do
it? Yes," Patsy Mara said, sitting on her couch in the home she shared with the man she
thought once worked as a paramedic and most recently for FEMA on
disaster recovery.
Michael Mara wore his EMS uniform, with the crisp white shirt
and badge of a paramedic, on the couple's wedding day in June 2009.
Now Patsy isn't sure if he ever was an emergency worker, or if he
helped on the Sept. 11 cleanup as he claimed.
She doesn't doubt, though, that it's him in the surveillance
photos the FBI says show him robbing banks around the country.
The Michael Mara she knew was smart and kindhearted, loved trips
to New Orleans' French Quarter and liked bologna sandwiches and
macaroni-and-cheese dinners.
She said she knows nothing about the crimes he's accused of,
beyond what she's now seen in TV newscasts.
Michael Mara is suspected of robbing 25 banks in 13 states,
dating to a December 2008 holdup of SunTrust Bank in downtown
Richmond, Va., authorities said.
According to court documents, the FBI received a tip from
someone who identified Michael Mara as the robber and gave
authorities photographs to match to bank surveillance videos.
In the robberies, the suspect waited patiently in line and
handed the teller a note demanding a specific amount of money.
Sometimes, he made gestures indicating he had a weapon, although
agents said there was no indication he ever used one.
The crimes began only months after Patsy and Michael met in a
shelter set up for evacuees of Hurricane Gustav. Patsy Mara, who
had been married twice before, said Michael showed up in a
paramedic's uniform as she was working at the shelter.
Shortly after they married, she said her husband claimed to get
a job for FEMA, working on disaster recovery. He traveled
constantly, up to four or five weeks at a time, but she said he
described trips to places that made sense for work, sites of floods
or other disasters. He wore the black shirt and khaki uniform of a
FEMA employee, and when he returned, he brought photos from his
travels, giving credibility to the stories.
Court documents say Mara worked for a vehicle transportation
company, giving him the ability to easily travel to other states.
Earlier this year, Mara rented a car for 52 days and logged 9,669
miles, an affidavit says. During that time, three robberies in
three different states were connected to the "Granddad Bandit."
"If he was an actor, he would have gotten an Academy Award for
his performance," Patsy Mara said.
She never saw gobs of cash, and the FBI hasn't said how much
money the bandit was able to grab, but Patsy Mara said her husband
kept a locked file cabinet that the FBI searched for evidence.
FBI agents said the nickname "Granddad Bandit" was devised to
help law enforcement and the public easily identify the suspect.
However, to Patsy Mara's grandchildren, Michael Mara was called
"Grandpa Mike."
Michael Mara is scheduled to make his initial court appearance
in Baton Rouge on Friday. It was unclear if he had yet hired an
attorney. If convicted of the Virginia bank robbery for which he
was arrested, he faces 20 years in prison.
Federal officials refused to provide details of Michael Mara's
background, whether he had a criminal record, where he was born or
where he grew up. Patsy Mara knows the stories he told her, about
an estranged daughter and a granddaughter who gave him a small
brown teddy bear five years ago that he named Fuzzy and took on
trips with him.
Now, she's only sure of a few things, that her husband treated
her well, that her family loved him and that she had a happy life
with him. As she described him with tears in her eyes, Patsy Mara
sat in a home filled with family photos that show Michael Mara with
her children and grandchildren.
She also knows that during Wednesday's standoff he said he
worried about her. Patsy Mara sat in a car only a few houses away
from home, getting updates from officials as they negotiated with
her husband to give himself up.
"When he was talking to people yesterday, his concern was for
me. His concern was that I'm going to be angry. I'm not angry. I'm
sad," she said. "I cannot be angry and throw him in the
garbage."

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