Everett robbery suspect could face 3rd-strike life sentence

EVERETT — Michael Rowe has spent chunks of his life locked behind bars for robbing banks.

His first heists were in 1989. Rowe hit three Everett banks in the span of two weeks, making off with a couple of thousand dollars. The loot likely was needed to feed a drug addiction that started when Rowe was a teen. He was sentenced to a few years in prison.

Rowe got sideways with the law again in 2000. That’s when he held up two Everett banks, handing the tellers notes demanding money and warning them he was armed. He was caught trying to spend pink-stained bills. His hands and clothing were stained fuchsia from a dye pack, too.

Those heists landed him in federal court and he was sentenced to seven years in prison. Rowe was released in 2009 but was back behind bars within months after he was caught using cocaine and drinking, violations of his probation.

Now, Rowe could be facing his longest stint in custody.

Prosecutors allege the Everett man held up a bank March 24 in the Silver Lake area, his old stomping grounds. He’s been charged with first-degree robbery. If convicted, Rowe is looking at a mandatory life sentence under the state’s persistent offender law.

The other two robbery convictions are his first and second strikes.

Last month’s hold-up didn’t deviate much from Rowe’s modus operandi. He is accused of handing a teller a threatening note.

“Give me all your cash and reserve. I have a gun,” the note read.

The teller stuffed money into a bag and handed it over to the man. He didn’t get far before a dye pack exploded, sending a cloud of pink ink billowing from the bag. The robber threw the loot on the ground and fled in a black vehicle.

A witness had noticed the man parking the car before the robbery. Something about him seemed suspicious, the witness told investigators. The witness wrote down the license plate after seeing the man run back to his vehicle.

A Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy located the vehicle less than a week later. Rowe was allegedly behind the wheel and arrested for a warrant out of King County. The deputy also alleged that Rowe had methamphetamine in his front pocket.

The teller was shown a photo line-up and “instantly picked the defendant as the person who demanded money from her at the bank,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Katie Wetmore wrote in charging papers.

The robber didn’t do anything to hide his face. Rowe is clearly seen on the bank’s video surveillance, Wetmore added.

At the time of his arrest, Rowe had two pending cases in Snohomish County. He’d been charged with burglary and drug possession last year. He failed to make a court hearing in early March and a judge issued a warrant for his arrest. Rowe was in court a few days later and the warrant was quashed. Rowe was released pending trial with orders not to break the law.

Three weeks later, he was in handcuffs for what could amount to his third strike and a life sentence. Rowe is 54.

The Everett man wrote a long letter to the federal judge who sentenced him for his second round of heists. He detailed a rough childhood and episodes of violence and trauma that followed him into adulthood. Rowe asked for leniency and help with his drug addiction.

“I believe in our legal system. I did what I did and definitely deserve a prison sentence as punishment and deterant (sic) and also continue to work on my drug addiction,” he wrote.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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