Court: Clerk recognized two-time robber's jail photo in 'The Joint'

Fourteen years after he robbed a Family Dollar in Columbus, Willie Shanks twice in a week robbed the same Summit gas station at 1500 Veterans Parkway.

He first robbed the Summit on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, then hit it again on Sunday, Oct. 6. In between, he got arrested Friday, Oct. 4, for battery with visible harm for striking a man with a pair of pliers and PVC pipe. For that, he was released on $500 bond.

The first time he robbed the gas station, he threatened the clerk with a silver-colored box cutter and got away with $335. The next time he pretended to have a weapon as he approached the clerk, and got away with $414.

Authorities said security cameras weren't working during the first incident, but the second time surveillance video showed obvious exasperation on the clerk’s face as she saw him approach, opened the cash register and raised her hands. Shanks, 35, typically pretended to be shopping in the store before robbing it, and in one case opened a glass cooler, leaving his fingerprints on the door, authorities said.

Investigators were tracking him through the fingerprints days later when one of the clerks got the jump on them: Because of his battery arrest, Shanks’ photograph appeared in a local publication called “The Joint,” a printed gallery of jail mugshots. She recognized him.

She called police, who had both clerks identify Shanks from photographic lineups. Officers arrested Shanks for the robberies on Oct. 21, 2013, when Shanks told them he’d been living in an apartment at 1100 12th Street in Columbus, a few blocks from the Summit station.

On Oct. 31, 2013, State Court Judge Andy Prather sentenced Shanks to 30 days in jail and a year on probation on the battery charge, but by then he was being held for armed robbery.

On Tuesday, Shanks pleaded guilty to one count of armed robbery for threatening the clerk with a box cutter and one count of robbery for the time he pretended to have a weapon. Visiting Senior Judge J. Richard Porter, substituting for Muscogee Superior Court Judge William Rumer, sentenced Shanks to 20 years in prison with 10 to serve and the rest on probation.

The judge also ordered Shanks to repay the $749 he took in the two robberies.

It was at least the second time Shanks had been sentenced for such an offense. In 1999 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison with 10 to serve for using a silver-plated pistol to rob a Family Dollar store on Jan. 14, 1999. He got $165 in that robbery, according to court records.