Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Escaped Robber Short of Cash Woman Who Held Up Bank Vanishes - Minus $20,120

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Escaped Robber Short of Cash Woman Who Held Up Bank Vanishes - Minus $20,120

Article excerpt

Six weeks after bank robber Dana Blum escaped from federal prison, about the only trace authorities have of her is the hole they believe she dug in the dirt floor of a farm shed in Southern Illinois.

Unfortunately for Blum, she gave up before she located a big stash of money she and her husband had taken last year in a daring robbery of Colonial Bank in Des Peres. FBI agents on Blum's trail found the money in a box buried less than 2 feet from the fresh hole they'd found.

Blum, 27, escaped Sept. 3 from the minimum-security federal prison in Alderson, W. Va. Her escape cut short by eight years her nine-year sentence for the robbery. Before her stint as a bank robber, she was a prostitute earning $60,000 a year at the widely known Mustang Ranch in Nevada.

Two days after Blum walked away from prison, a trucker reported that he had given a lift in Tennessee to a woman who called herself "Dana" and confided that she had escaped from a federal prison. Authorities believe she was headed for Mulkeytown, Ill., where she and her son from her first marriage had lived with her husband, Chester Blum.

FBI agents trailed Blum to the rental farmstead outside Mulkeytown, near Carbondale, Ill. The tenant there told the agents he had noticed no strangers hanging around.

But he solved a mystery in the bank holdup by mentioning that he had noticed a new shovel leaning against a wall of a three-bay equipment shed behind the house. Next to the shovel was a freshly dug hole in the dirt floor, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Mehan, who prosecuted the Blums here.

Playing a hunch, an FBI agent who examined the hole began poking in the dirt. Next to the hole, he dug down about 18 inches and hit something solid. It turned out to be a large metal ammunition box containing $20,120 in $10 bills and $20 bills, a sawed-off shotgun and a .357-caliber Magnum pistol. Also in the box were two rhinoceros horns Chester Blum had owned.

Until then, the FBI had accounted for about half of the $44,661.55 taken in the robbery Feb. 26, 1994. Agents had traced the bank money to a car and motorcycle the Blums apparently bought soon after the bank robbery. Customer Foiled Escape

The bank robbery was unusually bold.

The Blums wore disguises. Chester Blum, 50 and his hair thinning, wore a wig and a fake mustache. Dana wore a frizzy wig and sunglasses.

Chester Blum held a shotgun, believed to be the one found in the ammo box, as his wife vaulted the tellers' counter and began yanking money from cash drawers. The couple sped away in a 1969 Chevrolet Impala that she had bought here a few days earlier for $456.

Authorities suspect that the Blums cased the bank before the holdup. Mehan said Dana Blum handled the job as if she were accustomed to such a thing.

"She was calm and cool; she was good," Mehan said.

But an alert bank customer spoiled the crime. …

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