Lyle gas station robber sent to prison

Published 10:16am Monday, January 6, 2014

The first of four men charged in Mower County District Court for robbing a Lyle gas station at gunpoint was sent to prison Friday.

Vonzell Demond Whitehead, 28, of Austin, was sentenced to five years and seven months in prison for first-degree aggravated robbery. He was also resentenced for a felony assault conviction from a March 2013 case. He was given credit for 54 days in jail.

Tuquan Lee Smith, Keion Cornelius Clay and Elgin Tyrese Green have all pleaded not guilty in the case.

According to the court complaint, the four men allegedly robbed the Freeborn County Co-Op Oil in Lyle at about 9 a.m. Nov. 10. The store clerk said three men entered the store, and one demanded all of the money. Another allegedly followed the clerk to an office and took more money and checks. The clerk locked the doors after the men left and called 911.

Sheriff’s deputies responded to while an Austin police officer set up surveillance outside of Austin. That officer later stopped a car with the four suspects in Austin. Officers searched the vehicle for a gun for their safety, and according to the court complaint, found a sweatshirt with a .22-caliber revolver, $353 in cash and eight checks written to the gas station. A search warrant later uncovered dark clothing and hats.

The employee later identified Whitehead and Green as two of the four suspects. Police reviewed video surveillance, which indicated some of the suspects were in the store earlier that morning. The employee also identified a piece of clothing investigators found that may have been tossed from the vehicle.

The complaint alleges Green pointed the gun at the clerk, and Whitehead pocketed money before leaving the store. Witnesses gave matching descriptions of the suspects’ car, as well.