ALBANY — The three siblings accused of committing a cross-country crime spree that started in Florida and ended with a shootout in Colorado were hauled in to court Tuesday in Georgia to face charges of robbing a bank for cash that helped fuel their escape.
The three, 21-year-old Ryan Edward Dougherty, 26-year-old Dylan Stanley-Dougherty and 29-year-old Lee Grace Dougherty, pleaded not guilty to bursting into a Valdosta, Ga., bank and stealing $5,168 to fund their mayhem.
They could face decades more in prison for the robbery, on top of the lengthy sentences they received in Colorado for leading police on a dangerous chase there that climaxed with their capture after an eight-day national manhunt. This won't be their last court appearance, either. They face additional charges in Florida of shooting at an officer who tried to pull them over.
"The three Dougherty siblings could have killed anybody at any time," said Sheriff Chris Nocco of Pasco County, Fla. "We're just blessed that no civilians were hurt and no law enforcement officers were hurt."
The trio spoke only briefly at the hearing, telling the judge they understood the charges and entering their not guilty pleas. Their attorneys declined to comment after the hearing.
The search for the gang began in August when an officer northeast of Tampa, Fla., tried to pull over their car for speeding. That led to a five-mile police chase, with speeds around 100 mph. Two of the passengers squeezed off at least 20 gunshots at the officer pursuing them. He wasn't hurt, but a bullet burst one of his tires, forcing him to give up the chase.
A few hours later, authorities say the three made their way to the Certus Bank in Valdosta, Ga., about 210 miles north. One of them brandished an AK-47-style rifle while another was photographed by a security camera waving a pistol, the FBI said. The robbers fired shots into the ceiling and then fled with the stolen cash, burning through $1,000 as they made their way west.
The string of violent crimes sparked nationwide attention. Their images were plastered on electronic billboards throughout the Southeast. Their mother, Barbara Bell, encouraged her children to turn themselves in before someone got hurt, while authorities warned the public to steer clear.
"It sure seems like they have a death wish," Valdosta Police Cmdr. Brian Childress said at the time. "We're just hoping they surrender and they do it peacefully so no one gets hurt."
The chase ended Aug. 10 after two retired officers spotted the three while on a leisure trip in the San Isabel National Forest. Within an hour, the fugitives were leading authorities on a 20-mile police chase on Interstate 25 that ended in Walsenburg, about 150 miles south of Denver. Shots were fired at the officers before troopers deployed spike strips to puncture the tires of the trio's Subaru, and the vehicle rolled before crashing into a guardrail.
Even then, the chase wasn't over. Lee Dougherty bolted from the crash on foot, only to be shot in the leg by an officer after she pointed a pistol at him, authorities said. She later told police, "I deserved to get shot," according to court records.
The arrest launched a string of court cases that stretched to all three states as well. The three were given hefty prison sentences last month for the mayhem in Colorado. Ryan Dougherty was given 18 years, Lee Grace Dougherty received 24 years and Dylan Stanley-Dougherty got 32 years.
"I'd like to say it was a lapse in judgment, but 10 days is not a lapse in judgment," Lee Grace Dougherty said at the hearing. "It was bad, poor judgment."
Dylan Stanley-Dougherty is accused of firing the assault rifle at pursuing officers before the three were captured in Colorado, and authorities say he was also the one who fired at a police officer in Florida and during the Georgia bank robbery. During the sentencing hearing, he apologized for his actions and told the judge he didn't intend to hurt anyone.
"It is true that I acted out of desperation, and I am sorry for choices that I made," he said.