Trial begins for robbery suspect caught in doghouse

MINDEN - Bank of America teller Donna Kruger testified Tuesday that at first she believed a masked robber wasn't serious when he hopped over a counter at the Minden branch and ordered her to clean out her cash drawer.

"He pointed the gun at my head and said, 'You have five seconds to give me the money,'" Kruger testified at the trial of Steven Simmons.

"I put my hand on my hip - that's the way I talk to my boys - I thought it was a game.

"He started counting down 5-4-3, and I opened the drawer and started taking out the money, and he said, 'Don't touch the alarm,'" Kruger said.

The suspect was wearing a black face mask and Kruger said she could only see his eyes.

"I thought he was very young and being very stupid," she said.

Kruger was the first witness to testify Tuesday, the opening day of Simmons' trial on charges of robbery with the use of a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm with the serial number changed, altered or obliterated.

The 27-year-old snowboarder from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., was accused of taking $4,807 at gunpoint from the Minden bank branch near the close of business on Nov. 22, 2005.

There were no injuries in the incident, and Simmons was apprehended about 30 minutes later hiding in a dog crate at a house in the upscale Minden subdivision of Mackland, less than a mile from the bank.

The money was recovered.

Employee Lynn Jeffers said she and a co-worker were in the bank's vault balancing accounts when "I heard anger."

"I knew it wasn't 'bounced check' anger," she said. "I heard a voice say, 'Give me all your money. This is not a joke.' I was real scared. I never heard such anger before."

Jeffers and Kruger testified before a jury of 10 men and three women seated Tuesday in the trial, which is expected to conclude this week.

Simmons, who sat quietly during the proceedings Tuesday, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all counts. He also could face federal charges.

Jurors heard testimony Tuesday from five bank employees and two Douglas County sheriff's officers who were the first to respond to the alarm.

In opening arguments, prosecutor Michael McCormick described for the jurors how the state believes the robbery occurred.

McCormick said evidence will show that Simmons' DNA was found on the weapon, mask and tennis shoes that all the witnesses described.

Defense attorney Tod Young pointed out that none of the witnesses at the bank could identify the defendant because the suspect was wearing a mask.

Simmons has been in Douglas County Jail on $250,000 bail since his arrest.

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