Fugitive siblings plead not guilty to Ga. charges

Published On: May 15 2012 08:46:00 AM EDT   Updated On: May 15 2012 12:18:01 PM EDT
ALBANY, Ga. -

Three siblings accused in a crime spree that started in Florida and ended with their capture after a shootout in Colorado have pleaded not guilty to charges of pulling off a daring bank robbery in south Georgia.

The three, 21-year-old Ryan Edward Dougherty, 26-year-old Dylan Stanley-Dougherty and 29-year-old Lee Grace Dougherty, have already been given hefty prison sentences in Colorado for leading police on a dangerous chase on a busy interstate highway after two retired officers recognized them.

The three entered the plea Tuesday at a court hearing in Albany. They are accused of robbing a bank in Valdosta, Ga., hours after escaping from police in Florida.
Authorities say $5,168 taken from the bank helped fuel their escape.

On top of the lengthy sentences they received in Colorado, the siblings could face decades more in prison for the robbery.  Beyond the Georgia prosecution for bank robbery in Georgia, they face additional charges in Florida of shooting at an officer who tried to pull them over.

"The three Dougherty siblings could have killed anybody at any time," said Sheriff Chris Nocco of Pasco County, Fla. "We're just blessed that no civilians were hurt and no law enforcement officers were hurt."

The search for the gang began in August when an officer northeast of Tampa, Fla., tried to pull over their car for speeding. That led to a five-mile police chase, with speeds around 100 mph. Two of the passengers squeezed off at least 20 gunshots at the officer following them. He wasn't hurt, but a bullet burst one of his tires and he had to give up the chase.

A few hours later, authorities say the three made their way to the Certus Bank in Valdosta. One of them brandished an AK-47-style rifle while another was photographed by a security camera waving a pistol, the FBI said. The robbers fired shots into the ceiling and then fled with about $5,200 in cash, burning through $1,000 as they made their way west.

Their images were plastered on electronic billboards throughout the Southeast. Their mother, Barbara Bell, encouraged her children to turn themselves in before someone got hurt, while authorities warned the public to steer clear.

"It sure seems like they have a death wish," Valdosta Police Cmdr. Brian Childress said at the time. "We're just hoping they surrender and they do it peacefully so no one gets hurt."

The chase ended about eight days later after two retired officers spotted the three while on a leisure trip in the San Isabel National Forest and called in the sighting. Within an hour, the fugitives were leading authorities on a 20-mile police chase on Interstate 25 that ended in Walsenburg, about 150 miles south of Denver. Shots were fired at the officers before troopers deployed spike strips to puncture the tires of the trio's Subaru, and the vehicle rolled before crashing into a guardrail.

Even then, the chase wasn't over. Lee Dougherty bolted from the crash on foot, only to be shot in the leg by an officer after she pointed a pistol at him, authorities said. She later told police, "I deserved to get shot," according to court records.

The arrest launched a string of court cases that stretched to all three states as well. The three were sentenced last month to hefty prison sentences for the mayhem in Colorado, and they could face more prison in Georgia and Florida. At last month's sentencing hearing, Ryan Dougherty was given 18 years, Lee Grace Dougherty received 24 years and Dylan Stanley-Dougherty got 32 years.

"I'd like to say it was a lapse in judgment, but 10 days is not a lapse in judgment," Lee Grace Dougherty said at the hearing. "It was bad, poor judgment."

Dylan Stanley-Dougherty is accused of firing the assault rifle at pursuing officers before the three were captured in Colorado, and authorities say he was also the one who fired at a police officer in Florida and a during the Georgia bank robbery. During the sentencing hearing, he apologized for his actions and told the judge he didn't intend to hurt anyone.

"It is true that I acted out of desperation, and I am sorry for choices that I made," he said.