Duo Accused of Reporting Two Fake Robberies to Pull Police Away from Pursuit
A Cottondale woman and Vance man are accused of calling in two fake robberies to pull police away from a pursuit that began in Bibb County and ended in Tuscaloosa County last month.
According to court records and a spokesperson for the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office, the ordeal began on January 13th, when Bibb County Sheriffs deputies responded to a report of the theft of a catalytic converter.
The deputies began pursuing a Ford F-150 that crossed into Tuscaloosa County and pulled off in the 17100 block of Wire Road in Vance.
Court records filed Wednesday indicate two suspects abandoned the truck and fled into the woods. Shortly after, a woman called 911 and reported that the First Financial Bank in Vance was being robbed by men with guns. Some officers in the area left the scene to respond, but found that no robbery had occurred.
Police traced the phone call and realized it came from Jessica Durrett and Jessie Preston Bell, the suspects in the original theft.
Bibb County Sheriff's deputies were able to take Durrett into custody, but shortly after, dispatchers received another 911 call from the same number reporting an armed robbery at an area Dollar General. Once again, there was no such crime being committed.
Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's deputies responded to the woods where Bell fled and tracked him with K9 units. A TCSO spokeswoman said the dogs tracked the suspect for more than a mile before finding where he was hidden, pursuing him and taking him down. The spokeswoman said Bell was held there awaiting the arrival of additional officers, but he tried to flee again and was once again taken down. No deputies or K9 units were hurt, but Bell was treated for minor injuries on the scene before he was taken into custody.
According to the deposition filed in the case against Durrett, police determined that both parties called in separate false robbery reports to pull deputies away from their efforts to arrest the duo.
Durrett was charged with filing a false police report and remained in the Tuscaloosa County Jail Thursday on a $3,000 bond.
Bell has a long criminal history, and court records show he has pleaded guilty to attempting to elude police in August 2017 and November 2018, along with numerous traffic offenses and a few minor drug and firearm charges.
The TCSO spokeswoman said Bell was turned over to Bibb County deputies and held on charges there, but he is expected to be charged in Tuscaloosa County for criminal mischief, filing a false police report and carrying a pistol without a permit.