YOUNGSTOWN — By age 24, she had been married, given birth to a son, gotten a divorce, filed for bankruptcy and tried to make extra cash as a model. By age 22, he had played plenty of the computer game Halo, and found a job at an armored car company.
As a couple, they lived a quiet life in the upstairs of an 80-year-old brick house with giant, gnarled sycamores in the front yard.
They also loved to play Dungeons & Dragons, and now they’re accused of a plot as far outside the realm of their ordinary lives as that fantasy role-playing game.
Federal prosecutors say Nicole Boyd, boyfriend Roger Lee Dillon, and his mom, Sharon Lee Gregory — none of whom had a criminal record — stole $7.4 million in cash and checks from Armored Transportation Systems in nearby Liberty where he had worked as a driver for about nine months.
On the night of Nov. 26, when the company had cash from the busy post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend in the region’s stores, someone entered the building using another employee’s security code — then rearmed the system 24 minutes later.
Five days later, Boyd, Dillon and Gregory were arrested at a mobile home about 250 miles away in Pipestem, W.Va.
The suspects had left a puzzling trail.
Before leaving with their cat and dog, Boyd and Dillon stopped to put the next month’s rent in their landlord’s mailbox, much to her surprise.
“If I was going to steal $7 million, that would not be one of my concerns,” said Cookie Bowman, who lives on the house’s lower floor.
She didn’t read her mail until three days after the robbery. Tucked between the bills and junk mail was a plastic bag containing cash and a one-word note that read: “SORRY.”
Bowman doesn’t know what the apology was for. They were perfect tenants, paying the rent on time, not playing loud music or throwing parties, and Dillon would even haul her trash cans back from the curb.
“I’m still in a little disbelief,” she said.
The caper became the talk of the Rust Belt region where jobs are scarce and drive-thru lottery shacks are patronized by people dreaming of easy millions.
Many in the region have mocked the suspects for allegedly leaving behind clues in Boyd’s purple pickup truck.
Authorities found receipts from Beckley, W.Va., where a retailer directed the FBI to Pipestem, a nearby town of 633 next to a state park amid rolling mountain vistas. The federal indictment says Boyd and Dillon had gone to West Virginia in October to look for a place to hide out.
Records show that Boyd struggled through her young adulthood.
She married at age 19, lost custody of her son in the divorce and was ordered to pay $102 a month in child support.
A year before the robbery, the couple had filed for bankruptcy, owing $67,000 to banks and credit card companies, plus $580 to LeModeln Inc., a model and talent agency in nearby Boardman.
Boyd paid LeModeln $290 for the first year of a three-year contract but didn’t have enough money for a photo portfolio. LeModeln president Linda Weaver had high hopes for the redhead and didn’t charge her for the photos, showing a smiling young woman with neatly applied makeup and flowing shoulder-length hair.
“She was like an All-American girl. She was beautiful,” Weaver said. “She had a great personality.”
Boyd wanted to do fashion shows and model for print ads, Weaver recalls. She got her a one-day job at a fashion show in late 2004 at a local mall that paid $72.48. But Boyd didn’t pay the last two years of her contract.
Boyd attended Kent State University this fall but dropped out Oct. 18, according to the university.
She told co-workers at Rondinelli Tuxedo Co., where she was a seamstress for six months, that she was going to study fashion design and Dillon was going to pay her tuition, plant manager Ron Felleti said.
Felleti said she was a good worker and friendly but a bit strange.
“The only thing I remember her telling me is she was a witch. I said, ‘A good witch or a bad witch?’ She said, ‘Oh, I’m a good witch.”‘
Dillon listed Wiccan as his religion on his MySpace page. “He would call her about 35 times a day to see if she was still here — a little possessive,” Felleti said. “I had to yell at her.”
Gregory, 48, who went by Lee, worked at Rondinelli Tuxedo for about a month. Felleti recalls her as hyperactive and a heavy smoker.
She lived in the same house with the couple, in a separate unit upstairs.
The three remain in a West Virginia jail on charges of conspiracy to steal money from a bank; conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines; and transporting and aiding and abetting in that transportation from Ohio to West Virginia.
Boyd’s court-appointed attorney, Kimberly Mann of Daniels, W.Va., declined to comment on the case, saying she will represent Boyd only until she’s returned to Ohio. Attorneys for Gregory and Dillon did not return calls seeking comment.
Boyd expressed her love for Dillon by posting a cartoon on his MySpace page Nov. 21. It shows a little blue creature with guts spilling out of its chest, its heart lying on the floor. The cartoon bubble reads: “Oh, look, it’s beating for you.”