Parolee Arraigned in Ferndale Bank Robbery, Suspected in 3 Others
John Lee Westpfahl faces life in prison on bank robbery charge. More charges are expected from robberies that took place on Tuesdays in Birmingham and Chesterfield Township, police said.
John Lee Westpfahl, 44, the suspect in four bank robberies that took place on Tuesdays in November and December, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Ferndale's 43rd District Court on one count of bank robbery in the Dec. 6 robbery of Ferndale's Charter One Bank.
The three other robberies he is suspected in took place on Nov. 15 in Chesterfield Township and Nov. 22 and Dec. 20 in Birmingham. Westpfahl is on parole from a 2006 bank robbery conviction from Roseville, Ferndale Lt. Detective William Wilson said.
Ferndale, Birmingham and Clinton Township police departments and the FBI have been working together to solve these crimes, Wilson said.
Westpfahl was arrested the morning of Jan. 2 after Ferndale Patrol Sgt. Dan Simon recognized a green Grand Am, which investigating officers had been determined as the vehicle involved in the string of bank robberies, parked in the 8-Wood Motel parking lot, a motel at the corner of southbound Woodward and westbound Eight Mile.
The officer discovered the car belonged to Westpfahl, who was under supervised release probation due to the 2006 conviction. By staying at the motel, Wilson said, Westpfahl was in violation of parole that stated he had to live at his sister and brother-in-law's home in Warren.
Determining this, Ferndale police continued to watch the vehicle until Westpfahl was seen leaving room No. 4 of the motel on the morning of Jan. 2. Police followed and detained Westpfahl shortly thereafter, Wilson said.
"At that point, police detained Mr. Westpfahl and searched the vehicle," Wilson said. "They found $4,400 in cash, mostly in $100 bills in the console of the vehicle."
Wilson said police also interviewed Westpfahl's sister and brother-in-law, who said Westpfahl had just recently moved out and they didn't know about any misdealings.
Shortly after the interview, the brother-in-law called Ferndale Police after seeing several media stories about the robberies. He told police that he immediately recognized Westpfahl as the suspect in the robberies. "He recognized the coat and he said he had the coat at home," Wilson said. "The coat was Westpfahl's nephew's."
The brother-in-law also recognized several other accessories the suspect used in the robberies including girl's pink sunglasses that belonged to the brother-in-law's 7-year-old daughter and a tan ball cap that belonged to the brother-in-law's son.
"Police got a search warrant for room No. 4 (at the motel). We did find a handwritten note making demands similar to the robbery (at Charter One), similar to those involved in the other robberies," Wilson said.
Wilson said he expects Westpfahl to be arraigned on charges from the three other bank robberies as soon as the investigations are complete.
Beyond the 2006 bank robbery conviction, Westpfahl also had a 1991 marijuana possession arrest from Dayton Beach, FL, and a 2007 fleeing and eluding a police officer charge.
Magistrate Patrick Brennan entered a not guilty plea for Westpfahl and set his bond at $200,000. He is still detained. A preliminary exam conference was scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 12.
If Westpfahl is convicted he could face up to life in prison.