Robbery suspect's bail still $1 million

GASTONIA, N.C. - An Army sergeant accused of robbing two fast-food restaurants after cutting holes through the roofs remains in jail on a $1 million bond.

A judge refused to reduce the bond Tuesday for Jeff Manchester, who is charged with multiple counts of kidnapping and armed robbery.

He was arrested in May in connection with break-ins at McDonald's restaurants in Gastonia and Belmont on the same day. A robber wearing a ski mask cut a hole through the roofs, forced employees at gunpoint into the walk-in freezers and fled with money.

Manchester was arrested hours after a foot chase.

He is charged with eight counts of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of felony robbery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of felony breaking and entering, and one count of possession of burglary tools.

Manchester has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He could go on trial as early as October.

Federal authorities, the California Department of Justice and the Army are investigating whether Manchester may also be responsible for scores of similar robberies in California and other states.

A serial robber nicknamed ''the Roofman'' is believed to be responsible for 42 robberies and 22 attempted robberies in California since November 1998, as well as robberies in Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas.

Kelly Morris, Manchester's court-appointed lawyer, said Manchester has not been charged with other robberies and those cases should not be considered by the judge.

Judge Jesse Caldwell agreed but declined to reduce the bond. He cited Manchester's lack of family ties in North Carolina and the fact that he could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of all the charges he faces in Gaston County.


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