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In a ruling handed down last week, an appeals court rejected an appeal by an Oklahoma man convicted by a Parker County jury in November, 2009 for kidnapping a bank teller and her husband and holding them overnight as a part of a plan to rob a Springtown bank.
After being convicted of two aggravated kidnapping charges and one conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery charge in connection with the January, 2007 plan to use the teller to get into and rob the Wells Fargo bank in Springtown, Gary Nolen Huddleston, 59, of Muskogee, Oklahoma, was sentenced to two life sentences and one 99 year sentence.
The case began when the teller’s husband arrived home from work and was met inside his home by a masked man pointing a gun at him, according to trial testimony. The gunman and his cohort then blindfolded him and bound his wrists, knees, and ankles with zip ties. They then began questioning him about bank employees and procedures, threatening him with being shot and having his fingers cut off if they did not like his answers.
Eventually, the teller arrived home, was confronted by the kidnappers, and was blindfolded. They forced her to give details about bank staffing, layouts, good hiding places, and how the bank vault was accessed.
The following morning, the two kidnappers left the husband tied up at the Springtown home and set out to commit the robbery, one in the husband’s car in and the other in the teller’s car, taking her along.
As their plan unfolded, one of the kidnappers went to flatten the tires of a different bank teller. According to trial testimony, the plan began to falter when that teller’s husband saw the kidnapper over near the vehicle, contacted the
Springtown police, and followed the kidnapper’s car.
The two kidnappers evaded the police, but abandoned their bank robbery plans, leaving the teller with her vehicle off of Highway 199 in Springtown with instructions to go home and let her husband go.
During the trial, Assistant District Attorneys Kathleen Catania and Robert DuBoise presented evidence showing how the kidnappers were eventually caught through cell phone and cell tower records. Records introduced not only showed the pattern of phone calls between the kidnappers’ phones during the morning the bank robbery was to occur, they also revealed that Huddleston’s email address was firstname.lastname@example.org.
A search warrant run at Huddleston’s home in Oklahoma revealed a black bag with a wig, gloves, zip ties or flex-cuffs, a police scanner, and a hammer and prybar that the teller’s husband testified were his. During closing argument, DuBoise said that "If you went to Wal-Mart and asked them to give you a kidnap starter kit, they’d give you that black bag."
Finally, prosecutors introduced DNA evidence from the victims’ house and car which matched Huddleston’s DNA.
During the punishment phase of trial, the prosecution introduced testimony from a bank teller from Arkansas who described a similar attempted kidnapping at her home in 2007 to which Huddleston was linked with DNA from a mask found near the scene. Evidence presented also showed that Huddleston had been previously convicted of armed robbery, bank robbery, conspiracy to commit bank robbery, use of a weapon during a crime of violence, and two vehicle ID number alteration cases.
In his appeal, the defense contended that the evidence presented at trial was both legally and factually insufficient to sustain Huddleston’s conviction.
After a lengthy recitation of all of the evidence presented at trial, the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ruled that the evidence was sufficient and that "there was no error in the trial court’s judgment."
"Mr. Huddleston can appeal this ruling to the Court of Criminal Appeals if he would like," said Assistant District Attorney Eddy Lewallen, who handled the appeal for the prosecution. "However, as the highest criminal appeals court in Texas, they usually have the discretion to pick and choose which cases they want to hear."