Gibson enters guilty plea in banks robberies, returns to prison


ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The man who robbed two banks in Belmont County has spent the majority of his adult life behind bars, Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra said Monday before passing sentence.

Charles Patrick Gibson Jr., 57, last known address 323 Ridge Pointe Circle, Bridgeville, PA, had pleaded guilty to robbing the Bridgeport Unified Bank on Nov. 24, then the Huntington Bank in St. Clairsville in mid-December. Vavra imposed the maximum sentence of eight years on each charge, to be served consecutively for a total of 16 years behind bars.

“You threatened the tellers at both banks by representing that you had a gun. You caused them serious psychological harm … that continues,” Vavra said. “You placed the residents of Belmont County at risk of harm.”

Vavra also said Gibson has a long-time pattern of drug and alcohol abuse. He added that Gibson has used numerous aliases throughout his life, and so might have committed other, unknown crimes.

“Perhaps the tellers who wrote me those letters, who say that they can’t sleep at night because of the fear that you could be out quickly can now get some rest,” Vavra said.

Gibson is also facing charges of robbing two banks in Maryland.

Belmont County Assistant Public Defender Tom Ryncarz read a statement on Gibson’s behalf, expressing remorse for the lasting harm done to the Bridgeport bank employee.

“I hope no one has to look into a person’s eyes and see fear the way I seen in her eyes the day I committed my crime,” Ryncarz read.

“That feeling has been weighing on my conscious ever since. I want the court to know I am not a monster. I have remorse and compassion for her and the employees of her bank. I just made bad choices and I’ll probably spend the rest of my life in prison for them.”

In his statement, Gibson wrote that he hoped to serve as an example for young offenders.

Vavra inquired about the second, St. Clairsville robbery.

“I feel bad for both of them,” Gibson said. “But I think I did more mental damage to (the Bridgeport employee).”

Vavra referred to letters received from all of the victims involved in both robberies, saying they all suffer lasting trauma. He also reviewed Gibson’s extensive criminal history of theft-related convictions in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California.

“For the last 40 years, you had 19 felony convictions, 11 for burglary, four for escape, one for robbery, one for larceny, one for criminal trespass and one for receiving stolen property,” Vavra said, noting Gibson had served prison terms for each of them. “In the 40 years that you’ve been an adult, according to the report, you’ve been in prison for about 32 of those years. In other words, 80 percent of your adult life you have spent in prison.

“Almost as soon as you get out, you commit another,” Vavra said. He added that he did not believe Gibson’s remorse to be genuine. “This court believes that your record establishes that you are institutionalized. In other words, this court believes that you may have committed these crimes so that you can go back to the penitentiary.”

Detective Doug Cruse of the Belmont County Sheriff Office afterward commended the cooperation between local police departments in Bridgeport and St. Clairsville. He added that law enforcement in Belmont County was soon in touch with agencies in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and video technology and communication quickly suggested a link between robberies and pinpointed a common suspect.

He also commented on the sentence.

“Judge Vavra did a fair and appropriate assessment,” Cruse said. “You do get the feeling (Gibson) was institutionalized, but that does not justify victimizing innocent citizens.”

Cruse added that he believed Gibson was able to take a few thousand dollars at most from the two Belmont County banks.

“I don’t think any amount is worth 16 years of your freedom,” he said.