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Thief risks prison and health for $219

November 2, 2005

A chance encounter with a Hood River County Deputy recently led to the identification of a robbery suspect.

Robert Henry VanSickle, 36, was arraigned last week for allegedly stealing $219 from the Shell food mart in Cascade Locks. He was accused of demanding the money from a store clerk shortly before 11 p.m. on Oct. 14. According to reports, the employee was still in the process of handing VanSickle cash when he bolted from the premises.

Since the robber was not wearing a mask, his physical description was immediately radioed to all patrol deputies. The clerk did not know if the suspect was carrying a gun but believed it was possible since he had kept one hand in a coat pocket during their encounter.

Deputy Noel Princehouse, who was passing through Cascade Locks, remembered seeing VanSickle, who matched the robber’s description, walking down WaNaPa Street just minutes earlier. Princehouse knew the man had been released that same day from NORCOR, where he had served time for a drug conviction.

Princehouse relayed his suspicions to other law enforcement officials and a search was launched for VanSickle. However, he could not be located in any of the places where he usually hung out.

The suspect later told Sheriff Detective Gerry Tiffany that he had plowed though blackberry bushes after leaving the store to get downhill to the Union Pacific railroad tracks. He then used the tracks to escape unnoticed from town and caught a ride along Interstate 84 to Portland.

During his flight, Tiffany said VanSickle became covered with scratches from blackberry thorns. In addition, his feet required medical treatment because he was unable to change his wet socks for the next several days.

“He really went through a lot of pain and suffering to get a little bit of money,” said Tiffany.

Four days after the robbery, a family member allegedly convinced VanSickle to turn himself in. He now faces prison time for felony robbery and theft charges.

Tiffany said VanSickle reportedly confided in a relative that he planned to commit a crime so that he could return to jail. He had not been able to find lodging since leaving NORCOR and allegedly wanted to return to a place that provided a warm bed and hot food.

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