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Blue jeans, hooded jacket, dark coat, hat and shades for robbery No. 2. Same outfit, different bank. This time, four months after the FirstMerit job, Gore allegedly drove to the PNC in Valley City. It was a 20-minute trip west, via the backroads, from his Brunswick home.
In a diagonal parking spot on Center Road, the tiny town's main (and only) drag, Gore gazed into the windows of the stern and sober government building-turned-bank. An American flag rapped against its flagpole in the biting late-autumn air.
It was Nov. 21, 2014, and at that time, Gore couldn't have been trying to outsmart authorities. After all, the robbery he was about to commit was so logistically similar to the one he'd committed in July that county investigators immediately began working to validate the probable connection.
On paper and in practice, all signs pointed to the same guy. The getaway vehicle was a black Honda Accord, model year 2011 or 2012. The robber wore similar clothes and arrived at almost precisely the same time. (The incident in Valley City occurred at 11:32 a.m.) Witness statements on Gore's physical build differed: Two women at the Valley City PNC, a customer and a bank teller, identified him as shorter and younger than he was, in part because (like at the Medina FirstMerit), he hopped the counter to demand money from a teller. Surveillance video would later corroborate Gore's real physical description: 6-foot-1-inch, 210 pounds.
This time, though, Gore spoke.
"Where is the second drawer?" he demanded. "Give me the fucking money! I want 100s!"
And this time, Gore drove off with a haul less than half the size of his first: only $2,202. That wasn't even enough to pay his monthly mortgage ($2,341) on the Waite Farms home he purchased in 2007. The stressors — and the bills, one imagines — were continuing to mount.
Investigators, hypothesizing a serial offender, swept the area and discovered a discarded plastic Pat O'Brien license placard on the southbound lane of Lester Road. Lester runs south from Valley City, parallel to Columbia Road, and would be an optimal route for a getaway vehicle heading, say, toward Medina. (Detective Cartwright would initially claim officers found the placard in a ditch off nearby Neff Road, but prosecutors have argued that that was an honest mistake.)
The Pat O'Brien placard had impressions on the back, dirt marks mostly. Investigators believed the suspect placed the placard over his actual license plate, and that the dirt, salt and snow from the plate's numbers were transferred to the Pat O'Brien shield.
BP(?)8920. Or maybe BR(?)8920. That's what the Medina cops, poring over the placard with flashlights, were able to decipher. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough to go on.
"I still think I need to talk to a lawyer," Gore is telling Cartwright and Gross in the interview room, and Cartwright and Gross are getting antsy. A transport will be arriving shortly to take Gore out to Lorain, and they want to get all they can before he's gone. They tell him an attorney will be provided for him before walking out.
But five minutes later, they return. "What do you think?" Gross says.
"I think I am just going to wait until I have an attorney," Gore responds.
"You sure you want to go that way?" Cartwright asks.
Gore ponders the question for a moment, and is ultimately dislodged from his reticence. He starts making several more "statements against his interest" over the course of five minutes before he advises the detectives — for the fourth time — that he still thinks he'd like to talk to a lawyer.
Having been questioned, on and off, for an hour and a half, Gore is transported to the Lorain County Sheriff's Office. But once he arrives, he is placed, yet again, in a soulless interview room and submits to questioning. It's just detective James Rico this time, and Rico advises Gore that his Miranda rights still apply. "You have the right," Rico starts, and Gore nods.
Rico wants to talk about the robberies that occurred in Lorain County, he says, and then he wants to talk about Gore's personal finances.
Rico would claim, during questioning at a pretrial hearing, that in the hallway of the Medina Sheriff's Office, on Gore's way out, Gore told Rico he wanted to talk to him once he arrived in Lorain. That claim is vigorously disputed by Gore and his lawyer David Sheldon. But Rico said he was "100 percent sure" the conversation happened.
"I have nothing against Mr. Gore," Rico would say. "I like Mr. Gore. If it wasn't for the robberies, I could see myself having a beer with him."
Two thousand bucks doesn't make much of a dent in the regular expenses of a Brunswick lifestyle, especially not if you're spending long hours at the Horseshoe Casino, as neighbors say Larry Gore was known to do in the months preceding his arrest. It's unclear what role the rumored gambling might have played in Gore's private financial calculations, though: Like robbing banks, was it a high-risk, high-reward strategy for achieving his financial goals, which at that time, one surmises, were little more than "stay afloat"? Or was it the gambling — like the mortgage and the tuition — that the robberies helped underwrite?
The Waite Farms neighbors don't like to speculate, at least not in public. And Gore's closest friends prefer to say nothing at all rather than risk saying something inadvertently incriminating. A long list of them contacted by Scene declined to talk on the record about their friend and neighbor, but there are stories.
Gore's wife Tiffany, for instance, a bombshell cheerleader at Brunswick High back in the '80s, was known to tell friends that they were paying their kids' college tuition in cash. One Brunswick High alum told Scene that Tiffany had been disliked (and still is) by many classmates because of her haughtiness. Another, a current close friend of Tiffany's, said that neighbors are all emotionally behind the Gore family, and that Tiffany's biggest priority is keeping the house in Waite Farms — at least until their youngest graduates high school.
Tiffany had long been a stay-at-home mom, her friend said, but her college degree is in education, and since her husband's arrest, she's been "picking up some days as a sub."
The Waite Farms house was foreclosed on in June, three months after Larry's arrest. At the time, the Gores owed $335,000 on it, including interest and late fees for missed payments. Tiffany didn't respond to multiple requests for comment. And when reached through a friend, she declined.
Both Tiffany's father, Ron Less, and her brother, Ron Less Jr., are AllState franchise men like Larry. In fact, the phone number for Gore's AllState business, which closed shortly after his arrest, now redirects to the office in North Royalton — Ron Less Jr.'s shop.
"No one here has anything to say about that," said an associate, when reached by phone and asked about the case. Multiple attempts to contact Ron Less Jr. were unsuccessful.
It's still not known whether and how much Tiffany Gore knew about the robberies.
What's obvious, though, is that the $2,200 Gore is alleged to have stolen on Nov. 21, 2014, didn't last long, wherever it went. After getting away with two robberies within four months (and 10 miles) of each other, a ballsy Gore allegedly did it once again. At 10:52 a.m. on Dec. 8, he robbed the Fifth Third Bank on Royalton Road in Columbia Station. It was less than three weeks removed from his previous job.
On the very same day, however, detective James Cartwright obtained a GPS tracking warrant from Medina County judge James Kimbler for Larry Gore's car. Cartwright had filed an affidavit establishing probable cause that Larry Gore was the perp.
In Medina County, there were 64 registered owners of a black 2011-2012 Honda Accord. In addition to surveillance video and at least one accurate eyewitness account of Larry Gore's physical build, his license plate — FPW 8320 — was similar to the impressions left on the back of the Pat O'Brien placard: BP(?)8920 or BR(?)8920.
Per the affidavit:
"The formation and the edges of the letter B is similar to the letter F, and the only discrepancy with the numbers is the second numeral, of which a three (3) could appear rounded on top to look like a nine (9)."
Attorney David Sheldon would argue that the above info was nowhere near sufficient evidence to establish probable cause, and that detective Cartwright exaggerated the similarity between the Pat O'Brien impressions and Gore's plates. At this, the prosecution essentially rolled its eyes.
As it happened, Cartwright had to file for two extensions on the GPS tracking warrant. Gore had entered into a period of hibernation, it appeared, and Cartwright suggested to Medina judges that when the sun reappeared, so too would Larry Gore.
And he did.
On the morning of March 24, 2015, Larry Gore took his daughter to school. Then, at 10:42 a.m., he allegedly robbed the FirstMerit on Royalton Road in Columbia Station, in plain sight of the Fifth Third branch he robbed on Dec. 8. Fitting, perhaps, that Gore should end where he began, at a FirstMerit Bank. He was pulled over by the officers who were tracking him and arrested at 10:54 a.m.
Inside Gore's Honda, investigators found money from the robbery, a ski mask, and a temporary license placard that Gore had used to conceal his plates during the robbery.
Deputy sergeant Kevin Ross, the arresting officer, would later testify that Larry Gore was looking directly at him while on his stomach, handcuffed and being read his rights.
He appeared "shocked" and "surprised," Ross would say, at the events unfolding around him.
On April 30, 2015, Gore pleaded not guilty to all 18 counts stemming from the four robberies. The trial, originally scheduled for late June, has been pushed back time and again as the opposing sides mount their cases. The jury trial was most recently slated for Nov. 16, but David Sheldon filed another motion for continuance last week. The trial has been pushed back to Dec. 28, though has not yet officially been court-ordered for that date.
Gore's defense hinges on the admissibility of evidence obtained in interviews after he had requested an attorney. Furthermore, David Sheldon wants evidence obtained from the GPS tracking warrant suppressed because, he argues, the warrant was issued with insufficient probable cause. The assigned judge in the case, Joyce Kimbler, has recused herself at the defense's request because her husband, James Kimbler, was the judge who issued the warrant.
Throughout the pretrial proceedings, Gore has been held at the Lorain County jail on $1 million bond. David Sheldon has said that neither he nor his client would speak to Scene if we intended to write anything that put his client in a negative light. "There has already been," wrote Sheldon, "a great deal of negative press."
If convicted, the aggravated robbery count alone carries a prison sentence of 3 to 11 years. The second degree robberies (four counts) carry 2 to 8 years each. The third-degree felony burglaries carry 9 to 36 months. The five lesser counts of theft (license plate) and possessing criminal tools each carry 6 to 12 months. If convicted of all, and if on the receiving end of a maximum consecutive sentence, Gore would spend 40 years in prison.