ST. GEORGE – St. George Police arrested a Washington City woman Tuesday in connection with the Zions Bank robbery in September that ended with the death of 37-year-old bank robbery suspect Benjamin Jay Schroff.
Elizabeth Jeanne Holt, 37, was charged with one first-degree felony for aggravated robbery and three second-degree felonies for obstruction of justice for her alleged role in the robbery. She was booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility and is being held on $50,000 bail.
On Sept. 11, Schroff robbed the Zions Bank on River Road in St. George at gunpoint and took two hostages with him, using one of the hostage’s cars to flee the scene. When police spotted the car, Schroff used at least two different firearms to shoot at the pursuing officers, striking a number of police vehicles. None of the pursuing officers were hit.
Schroff then abandoned the car and the hostages and ran into an area along the Virgin River that was a mix of subdivisions and foliage. The hostages were found unharmed.
As police were establishing the perimeter and searching for the suspect, officers encountered Holt at 2:15 p.m., approximately 30 minutes after the robbery took place, St. George Police Officer Joshua Wilson said in his probable cause statement supporting the arrest.
Holt was parked near a horse corral in a gray minivan with the passenger side door open and a .22 rifle sitting in the backseat, Wilson said in the statement. Attached to the .22 rifle were large banana ammunition magazines, fastened together with black tape.
Holt told officers that she was there feeding the horses, the statement said. Officers collected Holt’s identification and asked her to leave for her safety, because the bank robbery suspect was believed to be in the area.
Approximately an hour later, Schroff left the cover of the brush, approximately 100 feet from where Holt had been parked, with a shotgun in hand and ran toward two officers ahead of him. Other officers who saw him ordered him to stop and drop the gun multiple times. Schroff allegedly pointed the shotgun at an officer, at which point officers opened fire, killing Schroff at the scene.
Among items recovered from Schroff were a fake beard and wig, Wilson said in the statement. Police also recovered a sawed-off shotgun and a large handgun with black tape wrapped around the grips of the weapons. Schroff was found to have a roll of black tape on his person. Police also found .22 bullets with Schroff, but no .22 caliber weapon.
Investigators learned that Elizabeth Holt was Schroff’s live-in girlfriend, the statement said.
Officers spoke to the person responsible for feeding the horses, who told them that he did not know Holt and that she had no affiliation with the horses in that area, Wilson said.
Police went to Holt’s residence later that evening and met with Holt.
Holt said she had been down by the river and was doing some school work when she was approached by the police, the statement said. Holt stated that she received a phone call from her boyfriend, Schroff, at 1:45 p.m. and he told her to meet him at the location where they had their first date – the same place where the police first encountered Holt earlier that day.
Police examined Holt’s home phone and cellphone and found there were no calls at 1:45 p.m. on Sept. 11, as Holt had previously stated, Wilson said in the statement. When asked about this, Holt said that she did not tell the truth about getting a call at that time.
“Holt changed her story and stated that Schroff told her to go to the location at 1:40 p.m. and to wait there for 15 to 20 minutes,” Wilson said. “Holt said that Schroff told her this before she left the house that morning. Holt said she had no knowledge of Schroff robbing the bank earlier that day. Holt said that after she dropped her children off at school, she stayed home and did household chores.”
On Sept. 12, police returned to Holt’s residence with a search warrant for the .22 rifle that officers saw in the minivan.
Holt told police that the rifle was now in the possession of Schroff’s 17-year-old son and that he had left the rifle in the minivan because he had been rabbit hunting, the statement said. Holt also told officers that the minivan’s sliding door was open when officers encountered her because the weather was warm and she wanted to get a breeze going through the van.
As officers were executing the search warrant, Schroff’s 17-year-old son arrived, the statement said. He told officers that Holt gave him the guns after the bank robbery and told him to get rid of them. He also stated he had not been hunting with the gun for months. He later led FBI agents to a location in the Diamond Valley area and retrieved several guns that were buried in the desert.
“One of the guns was the .22 rifle that was in the minivan at the time officers first contacted Holt,” Wilson said in the statement. “The .22 rifle had black tape around its barrel that was similar to the tape found in Schroff’s possession and on the sawed-off shotgun and handgun.”
Police were unable to determine how Schroff arrived at the bank, Wilson said. Because Schroff used an employee’s car to leave the bank, police inferred that an accomplice may have dropped Schroff at the bank to commit the robbery.
Despite Holt’s statement that she stayed home doing chores after dropping her girls at school, police located security video footage from the Maverick gas station, located at 1450 S. River Road, showing a vehicle matching Holt’s minivan traveling in the direction of Holt’s residence at 1:37 p.m., placing Holt’s vehicle within 7 blocks of the bank about 7 minutes before Schroff began the robbery.
“With the information that was collected during the investigation,” Wilson said in the statement, “I feel that there is probable cause to believe that Elizabeth Holt intentionally sided (with) and encouraged Benjamin Schroff in the commission of the bank robbery, and has gone to lengths to conceal evidence and lie to the police.”
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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