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Woman gets six years as bank getaway driver

SoVaNow.com / March 20, 2019
A Roxboro, N.C. woman will spend the next six years in prison for her role in a bank robbery that took place in Bracey in 2015.

On Friday, Circuit Judge S. Anderson Nelson sentenced Shermika Jessica Lea to 100 years in prison, with all but 10 years suspended for her role as the getaway driver in the February 2015 robbery of the BB&T bank in Bracey. Lea has been in jail since her arrest in 2015 and will get credit for time served.

Lea was the third person sentenced for the heist that netted the robbers $5,429. Already convicted and receiving jail time were Thomas Campbell of Knightdale, N.C. and Joseph Lee Sims of Halifax. A fourth defendant, Tremayne Coleman, is expected to be sentenced March 29.

In addition to the six-year active prison term, Lea must also pay $8,193 in fines and restitution and be on good behavior for the next 50 years. Once released, Lea will have to undergo five years of active supervised probation.

Lea served as getaway driver for the robbery on the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. Three men later identified as Coleman, Sims and Campbell wore masks and carried handguns when they entered the bank around 4 p.m. demanding money. They ultimately escaped with $5,429 and a cell phone that was taken from one of the bank employees.

During the hold-up, they pointed guns in the faces of customers inside the bank as well as at employees who were working the teller line, while a third man ran behind the teller line into an office and ordered the occupants out of the office at gunpoint.

The three men then ran out of the bank and jumped in a van that was driven by Lea. A concerned citizen witnessed the men jumping into a reddish color van and followed them in his vehicle as the robbers fled the scene. He also witnessed a cell phone being thrown from the van as it crossed a bridge leading into North Carolina.

This citizen communicated the relevant information about the van to 911, which led to the robbers’ capture by officers with the Norlina (N.C.) Police Department with backup provided by the Warren County and Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.

The suspects offered no resistance when stopped. A search of their van by police and deputies resulted in the recovery of the stolen money, along with masks, BB&T money bags, and firearms.

Ahead of her sentencing Friday, Lea spoke to the judge and took full responsibility for her actions, even admitting to having served as the getaway driver in more than nine other robberies perpetrated by Coleman, Campbell and Sims. She said bad judgment, fueled by depression, a dependency on drugs and alcohol and a feeling of isolation after being disowned by her parents because of her sexuality, is what led her to joining Coleman, Campbell and Sims in their criminal enterprise.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Nash credited Lea with her role in bringing Sims, Coleman and Campbell to justice, even while receiving death threats. Lea said the one message she received promised “she’d be in a body bag, if she talked.” Lea was a cooperating witness for Nash and the local sheriffs during the investigation of the robbery.

Nash also acknowledged that the four years she’d already been incarcerated were exceedingly harsh as she was not allowed to participate in jobs or classes. She told the court she spent the time reading and tried to “deal with issues and repair relationships with her mom.”

Despite calling Lea’s cooperation “valued and “the reason two suspects received significant sentences,” Nash asked Nelson to sentence Lea to an active sentence of 12 years.

In handing down the sentence, Nelson told Lea he “appreciated her contributions bring her co-defendants to justice” and that her prior involvement “in a significant criminal enterprise played no part in his consideration of her sentence.”

“You don’t treat depression by taking up with the wrong crowd. You get help,” he said.

Striking a balance, Nelson sentenced Lea to 20 years on each of three counts of abduction for pecuniary gain, 20 years on the charge of entering a bank to commit larceny, and 20 years on the charge of bank robbery with the use of a gun — for a total of 100 years. The judge suspended 90 years, leaving her with an active sentence of 10 years. She was also given credit for time served.



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