Michelle Renee, a manager at the Bank of America branch in Vista, California, was held captive along with her 7-year-old daughter Breea in November 2000 and later coerced into committing a robbery there.
In Vista, California, Renee shared a home with her daughter Breea and another person. On the evening of November 21, 2000, three armed men wearing black masks broke in through the back door while Renee and Breea were at home on the couch. Renee and her 7-year-old kid were forced to the ground while having guns held to their heads.
Renee and Breea were bound together with duct tape. Do you intend to murder my mother?, Breea allegedly said, according to Renee. Are you sure you won’t murder me? No, not if your mom follows our instructions, one of the guys retorted.
One of the masked men who spoke the most, according to Renee, appeared to be in control. He informed her that they had been monitoring her for several months. They were planning to loot Renee’s bank the following morning, and they knew where she worked.
The intruders kept hostage Michelle, Breea Renee, and their roommate the entire night. They threatened to murder Michelle if she didn’t comply with their demands and discussed how they were going to rob the bank. In the morning, the guys allegedly used dynamite on Renee, her daughter, and their roommate.
The intruders showed Renee what appeared to be a buzzer. She claims that she was informed that it was a detonation device and that the nitroglycerin could go off if she did something incorrectly. The ringleader allegedly warned them, according to Renee: “You will disintegrate if you attempt to run. You’ll all be slain if you act foolishly.
She Does What They Wanted
As Michelle Renee drove to the bank, the gang’s leader was concealed in the rear seat of her Jeep. He held a gun to her side and instructed her to continue driving while he said, “Do everything you normally do.”
With a stick of dynamite strapped to her back, Renee waited for the Brinks van. In addition to her customary briefcase, she was carrying a duffel bag that she was instructed to load with cash taken from the vault. She took her briefcase and entered the vault as soon as the Brinks van arrived. She quickly stuffed the duffel bag with as much cash as she could.
A short while later, the instigator was waiting in her Jeep as Renee left the bank carrying $360,000. After giving her instructions and taking her payment, he instructed her to immediately return home. Stay away from the establishment. Avoid calling the cops. Nothing.”
Breea and their housemate were both in good condition when Renee returned home. The men exited the house after removing the dynamite from their backs. The gang’s boss, however, overlooked the fact that Renee was toting explosives.
The Dynamites Were Fake
Breea, Renee, and their roommate ran to the nearest neighbor, who immediately dialed 911 and asked for assistance. They soon learned that the dynamite that had been used to frighten them was fake.
It appeared to be nothing more than broomstick pieces that had been broken up, painted red, strapped with wires, and given a dynamite-like appearance.
Arresting The Culprits
The ringleader had been at the bank hours earlier, claiming to be a customer, and Renee had recognized his eyes during the hostage situation. Renee and he had talked about opening a new account, and he had even handed her his business card. She asserts that she alerted police to the theft. “Look at my workstation. Obtain that certificate. The name on the card was put as Christopher Butler.
Lisa Ramirez and Christopher Butler were arrested after a traffic check on December 1, 2000.
Police discovered some damning evidence in the car’s trunk and glove box, including Michelle Renee’s credit cards, bank money straps, a BB gun that resembled the real gun Renee had described, the duffle bag used to take the money out of the bank, black clothing, and ski masks similar to those Renee had described.
Chris Huggins and Robert Ortiz, the other two males who held Michelle and Breea Renee hostage, were also identified through interviews.
Christopher Butler was convicted of first-degree robbery, two counts of abduction for ransom, conspiracy to commit kidnapping for robbery, and two counts of theft. He received 52 years in prison in addition to two concurrent life sentences. The other two defendants in this case, Christopher Huggins and Robert Ortiz, also received guilty verdicts after separate hearings.