Holdups allegedly a family activity

MARYSVILLE — The man police believe is responsible for a rash of recent espresso stand robberies did it to support his family, he told police after his Wednesday arrest, according to court documents.

Shane Newman-Wittenbarger, 29, of Stanwood, admitted to robbing at least four drive-up espresso stands since Aug. 18, documents said.

He and his wife, Blair Knerr, 25, were arrested and are now in jail for investigation of multiple counts of second-degree robbery.

Now, baristas in the area can go back to making lattes and mochas.

“I’m glad everything’s back to normal and everybody’s going to be safe,” Leaha Peterson, 27, said Thursday. She’s a barista at Espresso Z to B and was robbed on Aug. 29.

Peterson’s description helped police develop a sketch that ultimately led to the couple’s Wednesday arrest, court documents said.

After the sketch was released, about a dozen tips allowed police to quickly solve the case, Marysville police Cmdr. Robb Lamoureux said.

“The number of tips we got absolutely led to a suspect and ultimately an arrest of that suspect,” he said. “The public’s help was invaluable.”

One tip came from Newman-Wittenbarger’s former boss, documents said. The boss said Newman-Wittenbarger was recently fired.

Newman-Wittenbarger told Peterson that he was committing the robbery to help his wife and children.

“He should have thought of a better way to support his family,” she said. “If they do have kids, I feel really bad for their kids.”

Employees at the drive-up espresso stands have been terrorized for the past two weeks as reports came in of at least a half-dozen robberies.

In each case, a man walked up to the stand, said he had a gun or knife, and demanded money, police said. The man took the money and ran off to a waiting car.

Newman-Wittenbarger told police Knerr allegedly drove him to the robberies, documents said. He told her to wait while he got the money.

He denied having a gun or threatening he had a gun, according to a police affidavit.

After her arrest, Knerr declined to talk to police and asked for a lawyer, documents said.

Police continue to develop the case and may forward information about additional robberies to Snohomish County prosecutors, Lamoureux said.

On Thursday, a judge ordered Newman-Wittenbarger held in lieu of $75,000 bail and Knerr held in lieu of $30,000 bail.

Even with the couple sitting in jail, baristas should not completely let down their guard, Lamoureux said.

With easy access, the espresso stands still are potential targets.

“They should not be afraid but alert,” he said. “They need to be aware of what’s around them and not just the next drink they’re making. That’s personal safety 101.”

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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