Authorities find bank robbery money hidden in tree

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 | 4:35 p.m. CDT

MARYVILLE — A tree in the "middle of nowhere" turned out to be the wrong hiding place for loot from a bank robbery in northwest Missouri.

Nodaway County authorities say about $12,000 stolen last week from the Citizens Bank & Trust in Burlington Junction was recovered Tuesday after tipsters led them to a tree just across the border in rural southern Iowa, The St. Joseph News-Press reported.

"It really was in the middle of nowhere. This is just my assumption, but I'm sure they were thinking they could get away and come back later and recover it," Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White said. "Or they could at least call somebody, so they could go back and recover it."

Joseph O'Neill, 26; Donald Kestner, 26; and Travis Davis, 27, all of Iowa, are being held in the county jail on first-degree robbery and armed criminal action charges.

Authorities said after the bank was robbed Friday, a man who saw two men enter the bank with masks covering their faces followed their car and called authorities, who chased the suspects. Other tipsters said the men were seen on Missouri Route FF, just south of the Iowa border and west of Hopkins.

The three men drove into Iowa and tried to conceal their vehicle before fleeing back into a wooded area in Missouri, where they were captured, White said. During that chase, the men allegedly hid the money in the tree.

"I will be the first one to admit that we got really, really lucky," White said. "But again, if it wasn't for people choosing to get involved, I think there would a lot of stuff that wouldn't get solved."

The suspects all remain in custody on $100,000 cash-only bond. Online court records do not indicate if they have attorneys.

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