EVERETT — Harold Massena was desperate.
He couldn’t find work. His unemployment benefits had run out. He was behind on his rent and facing eviction. Massena, a diabetic with heart problems, believed that if he was forced out on the street, he would die.
He also believed his cat was counting on him, the Everett man told a judge on Tuesday.
In June, Massena stood outside an Arlington bank for an hour, contemplating what he never thought he was capable of doing.
“I was scared so bad. I don’t even remember walking in,” Massena said.
Massena passed the teller a note. “I have a gun. Put all the money in the bag.”
At 52, he committed his first felony — bank robbery.
Massena on Tuesday was sentenced to four years in prison. The prison time is for the June heist as well as another bank robbery in Snohomish the following month.
He also admitted robbing a Monroe bank in August. Prosecutors agreed to drop the charge in that case in exchange for guilty pleas to the Arlington and Snohomish robberies.
“I’m terribly and truly sorry for what I did,” Massena said. “It was out of desperation.”
Massena had been out of work for about three years after he lost his commercial driver’s license because of an accident during a snow storm, his attorney William Steffener said. He was served with an eviction notice in early August.
He worried what would become of his cat, who he considered his family.
The Everett man was unaware that he could have applied for disability benefits because of his health conditions, Steffener told the judge.
“He didn’t know what else to do,” the lawyer said.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne told Massena that robbing banks never should have been an option.
“Bank robbery is not an appropriate option for you,” Wynne said. “A life of crime is not an opportunity.”
Massena was arrested the day after the heist in Monroe. Someone called police after seeing his photo on a television news report. A detective drove by the suspect’s apartment and spotted a blue 1979 Chevrolet Nova registered to Massena. The car matched the description of the car driven by the suspect in the Snohomish robbery.
When police arrested Massena he was wearing a pair of pants with a red stain on them. He told investigators it was from a dye pack that exploded after the Monroe robbery.
He told Wynne on Tuesday that the money from the first robbery went to pay back rent. The second robbery didn’t net enough for rent so he used the money to pay his electricity bill and to buy food for himself and his cat. He couldn’t use any of the money from the Monroe robbery. He burned the stained cash, worried that if he dumped it somewhere, someone else could be blamed.
After Massena’s arrest, his cat went to a shelter. The animal, whose name wasn’t mentioned during Tuesday’s hearing, eventually was euthanized.
Massena is more optimistic about his future now that he understands there are resources for him when he gets out, Steffener said.
“I hope you move on to have a productive life,” Wynne said.
“I hope so too, your honor,” Massena answered before being led off in handcuffs.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.