Rite Aid robber found guilty, awaits sentencing

The April 2014 daylight robbery of a Rite Aid Pharmacy in Culpeper and the subsequent carjacking in a nearby parking lot was, as court observers noted, a slam dunk case for the prosecution.

The defendant, Joseph Bailey of Woodford, Virginia, now 25, and represented by Fredericksburg attorney James Ilijevich, had confessed to the crime shortly afterwards to police who had swarmed his hotel room. Video cameras in the store captured the robbery as it took place. The pharmacist, his aides, customers and the carjack victims all identified Bailey as the person who told them he had a gun but did not want to use it.

Even the hotel manager identified Bailey as the person who asked her where the closest pharmacy was located prior to the robbery. The stolen drugs and syringes were found in his hotel room.

It did not take Circuit Court Judge Susan Whitlock any time to find Bailey guilty of robbery, carjacking, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, petit larceny, and driving without license, during the June 18 bench trial. Dropped by the commonwealth was a charge of grand larceny theft.

It took the commonwealth 14 months to get the case to trial. The April 4, 2014 robbery first came to court on June 16, 2014 when a grand jury issued indictments against Bailey. In July the first trial date was set for December 18, 2014. Bailey retained another attorney and the matter was continued again for the June 18, 2015 trial date. Sentencing has been set off, for the preparation of a sentencing report, until October 2, 2015.

Bailey has remained in jail since April 2014 and will remain there for the October sentencing.

The bench trial was punctuated by moments of pathos and emotion as victims and police testified.

Pharmacist Sunday Okpanachi said, â??I told myself this is real. This must be a robbery going on,â? after Bailey told him â??donâ??t be a hero.â??â?

Bailey had first told Okpanachi he was there to pick up a prescription. After pharmacy personnel checked and told him they had no prescription, the pharmacist and his assistants noted that Bailey stayed in the area and watched them.

It was after the pharmacist had left the pharmacy area and then opened a door to return when Bailey followed him in and told the employees there he had a gun, that he did not want to show it, and that he wanted oxycodone. He took a pillowcase full of drugs as well as syringes.

A tearful Karia Davida, one of the pharmacy techs with Okpanachi, told the court she talked with Bailey and she said, â??I never took my eyes off of him. There was something that was not rightâ?¦â? with the young man.

Rebecca Thomeson, who has worked at the pharmacy for more than 11 years, told the court about the robbery. She testified stoically until Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Frederick asked her how she felt. At that point Thomeson became tearful and said, after the robbery, it hit her and she â??thought about [her] husband and three kids.â?

Michael Rector told his wife Debra to get down when the robbery began. He and she had been waiting for a prescription when Bailey came into the pharmacy telling all who could hear he had a gun. â??Is this really happening,â? Debra asked. It was, he said to her, and he told his wife to get down and stay put. He then made his way to the front to tell a store employee to call 911. His wife did not follow all of his directions and when the robbery ended, she found herself face to face with Bailey as he left. â??He said excuse me. I said sure,â? she testified as he stepped past her to exit the store.

Michael Rector followed Bailey outside and watched him trying to find a getaway car.

â??He said gimme your keys I need your car,â? Sandra Rowland testified. â??Donâ??t make me pull this gun outâ? he told her so, she said, â??I gave him my keys.â? Her car was found minutes later in the hotel parking lot where Bailey had a room.

According to the testimony given, a gun was never found. Bailey told Culpeper Police Officer Jeff Dodson during an interview later, that he was an addict, had left Boxwood, tried to get back into the program, was rebuffed and wandered the streets looking for a place to stay. His grandmother paid for the night at the hotel, Dodson testified Bailey told him, and the next day his plan was to get the oxycodone and commit suicide. He didnâ??t care if he was caught or not because of the suicide plan, Bailey told Dodson.

When officers found Bailey in his room, according to courtroom testimony, he stood shirtless with white powder around his mouth. From the hotel room the then 23-year-old Bailey was taken to the hospital and held for two days. He told Dodson he had been addicted to pain pills since suffering a foot injury when he was 18. In his quest to get the oxycodone Bailey told Dodson â??he could not believe he was doing what he was doingâ?.

â??He was very apologetic,â? Dodson said. â??He said he felt like a piece of crap for doing what he did.â?

Gary Close is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at g57close@aol.com