CLEARFIELD – The trial for a Clearfield man accused of robbing Domino’s Pizza at knifepoint on April 4 got under way yesterday before Clearfield County President Judge Fredric Ammerman.
William Lee Rauch, 35, of Clearfield has been charged with robbery, two counts; terroristic threats; simple assault; theft by unlawful taking; and receiving stolen property.
Diane Thomas, who was assistant manager for Domino’s Pizza at the time of the robbery, testified first. At approximately 10 p.m. April 4, she said a male entered the store and stood at the counter. He was wearing a gray-colored hooded sweatshirt and jeans. The male’s face, she said, was concealed with a homemade mask with roughly cut eyeholes.
Initially, she thought it was just a hoax. However, she told jurors the male started demanding for money and gave them five seconds to open their cash drawer. Then, she said he proceeded to come around the counter and demanded “give me the money. I’m not (expletive) around.” The male, she said, had also brandished a knife, which was pointed toward her.
Because the male possessed a knife, Thomas said she proceeded to unlock the cash drawer. Due to company policy, she said they only keep one- and five-dollar bills in the cash drawer, and any larger bills get dropped down into a safe. Thomas said the male grabbed the cash and left the change and some one-dollar bills in the cash drawer.
When asked by Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. she said the male held the knife at waste level with it pointed toward her. She said, “I was scared. I value my life.” After taking the cash, she said the male fled, which is when she observed a gold-colored emblem on the back of his jeans. She followed him around the counter and locked the door behind him and then called 9-1-1.
According to her, the male fled to the rear of Domino’s Pizza and toward Knickerbocker Villa. She observed one- and five-dollar bills outside on the sidewalk and inside the store’s entrance. Upon police arrival, she pointed out the cash to officers. She later determined that Domino’s Pizza was short by approximately $190 due to the robbery.
Jennifer Hamilton, who was a delivery driver for Domino’s Pizza at the time, testified next and offered a similar account of the robbery. Like Thomas, she initially thought the male was playing some sort of hoax on them. However, she realized that wasn’t the case when he came around the counter and demanded money.
Hamilton also described the male’s mask as “homemade,” as its eyeholes weren’t perfect circles and uneven. She said the male had his hood up over his head and the sleeves of his sweatshirt pulled over his hands. The male, she said, held a green-handled knife in his left hand, and for that reason, Thomas unlocked the cash drawer. After taking the money, she said the male left, and she noticed the embroidered emblem on the back of his jeans.
Jason Johnston, another Domino’s Pizza delivery driver, testified he’d observed the male before leaving the store. He said the male was wearing a gray-colored hooded sweatshirt, a mask and jeans. Upon noticing the male initially, Johnston said he continued with his normal routine, as the male just stood at the counter.
However, when the male came around the counter and demanded money, he was “stunned” by it. He proceeded to leave the store but watched Thomas unlock the cash drawer and the male take cash from it while sitting in his car. After that, he said the male fled toward the rear of the store, he put his car in reverse and followed him and observed him jogging in the area of Healy Avenue.
Johnston proceeded to drive to the Clearfield Borough police station; however, there wasn’t an officer there. He headed back toward Domino’s Pizza, at which point he stopped to notify police of the approximate location of the robber.
Sgt. James Glass of the Lawrence Township Police Department said he and Officer Nathan Eckert assisted with searching for the robber. He had been traveling on South Third Street and then went onto Leavy Avenue after observing a male walking further down the roadway near Bud’s Electric. Glass and Eckert went to identify the male and told him he was being stopped while an armed robbery had just occurred in the area. Glass detained the male for safety purposes and to search him for weapons, which he found none.
Glass said he removed the male’s wallet and identified him as Rauch. He said the wallet also contained a large amount of cash in five-dollar and one-dollar denominations. According to the affidavit of probable cause, Rauch had 25 five-dollar bills and 49 one-dollar bills. Rauch told Glass he’d been to Aunt Mary’s Place and to the ATM and was on his way to Dingers Grand Slam Grille & Groggery. Glass then radioed and asked Officer Ralph Nedza of the Clearfield Borough Police Department to meet with him.
At that point, he said they received more details about the robber’s physical description. He said Domino’s Pizza employees had related that the robber was wearing jeans with an emblem on the back pocket. He observed an emblem consistent with the employees’ description on the back of Rauch’s jeans. Rauch was then left in the custody of Nedza and taken to the borough police station.
Glass said he and Eckert began searching the area for evidence. During his testimony, Eckert told jurors that he located a gray-colored hooded sweatshirt and mask, as well as a knife stuck in the ground behind Bud’s Electric on Power Avenue.
Glass requested that Officer Joe Witherite of the Clearfield Borough Police Department respond to the scene, which he did to photograph the evidence. Afterward, Glass collected the evidence and placed them into individual bags, which he turned over to the borough police.
Frank DeHaven, a corrections officer at the Clearfield County Jail, testified that at approximately 10 a.m. the day of the robbery, he was assigned to the booking unit at the jail. That day, he said Rauch was being released and getting back his property, which included a knife with a green handle. DeHaven said the knife, which Rauch signed for in release paperwork, appeared to be the one related to the robbery.
Clifford Warner, the cousin of Rauch’s girlfriend, also offered testimony about the knife. He had purchased the knife while on the road as a truck driver and then given it to his cousin, an avid knife collector. His cousin, he said, lived with Rauch. Warner said he’d given the knife to his cousin sometime during the summer of 2012 and knew it was previously his, as he’d broken the belt clip on the knife.
Sgt. Greg Neeper of the Clearfield Borough Police Department was the last to testify. He assisted Nedza with the criminal investigation and was present when DNA was collected from Rauch at the CCJ. Neeper said he and Nedza took the DNA and other evidence to the Erie Crime Lab on April 15.
The trial resumes today and is scheduled through Friday.