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Judge lowers bond for suspect in ‘‘Barbie Bandits’’ case

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Posted: March 29, 2007 3:38 p.m.
Updated: April 13, 2007 5:00 a.m.
MARIETTA, Ga. — A Cobb County police detective testified Thursday that after allegedly stealing nearly $11,000 in a bank heist, Heather Johnston and Ashley Miller went on a shopping spree, ate a meal, stopped at a salon and even gave money to the homeless before they were caught.
    Detective Brad McEntyre discussed details of the heist involving Heather Johnston and Ashley Miller — the so-called ‘‘Barbie Bandits’’ — and its aftermath. He testified during a probable cause hearing for Johnston.
    Miller waived her hearing and remains in jail in lieu of posting bond.
    Authorities say Johnston, 19, and Miller, 18, were part of a brazen robbery in which the two girls were caught on videotape. The girls were disguised in sunglasses and laughing as they held up a bank branch in Acworth, a suburb about 30 miles north of Atlanta.
    After a brief car chase, the girls were arrested two days later, about 20 miles from site of the robbery. Police also arrested a bank teller and another man in connection with the theft, saying the heist appeared to be an inside job because of the amount of money involved.
    During the detective’s testimony, which lasted about half an hour, Johnston sat in a blue county jail jumpsuit, her head bowed and long, blonde hair tousled. A few rows behind her, her parents, Edward and Lisa Johnston, sat with their pastor, Danny Rigley.
    McEntyre said Johnston told authorities that the idea to rob the Bank of America in Acworth started out as a joke before ‘‘things turned serious.’’ Afterwards, the two girls went to the upscale Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead for shopping at Lenox Mall and Phipps Plaza and visited the swank Carter-Barnes Salon.
    Johnston’s lawyer also asked Cobb County Magistrate Court Judge Frank Cox to reduce her $26,000 bond, which he lowered to $10,000.
    Upon her release, Johnston will live with her parents, who sat with their pastor a few rows away during the hearing in Marietta. Johnston also wil be under a seven-day-a-week curfew from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
    After the hearing, Johnston was led out of the courtroom in shackles. Her parents said they are not sure how they will pay her bond, but said they were eager to get their daughter home and will get her out of jail ‘‘as soon as we can come up with the money,’’ her father, Edward, said.
    Her parents have visited her on weekends for several weeks.
    ‘‘You think you’re the average, normal, everyday American family, and then something like this happens,’’ her mother, Lisa, said. ‘‘It’s just a smack in the face.’’
    Lisa Johnston said her daughter still has a lot going for herself, and has aspirations of becoming a dental hygenist. After finishing high school, Heather Johnston was supposed to go to Gainesville State College on a scholarship.
    ‘‘Then she decided to ’do something different,’’’ her mother said.
    Her parents said Heather Johnston simply became cauught up with the wrong kind of people.
    ‘‘This is certainly not the way we raised her,’’ Lisa Johnston said. ‘‘It’s all about choices.’’
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