Family Foods robber convicted

Published 9:13 am Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NORFOLK, Va. – For his role in a pair of armed robberies in Gates County last year, Raymond Lewis Perry will perhaps spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Perry, 19 of Norfolk, was convicted June 21 by a federal jury on one count of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by means of robbery, three counts interference with commerce by means of robbery, and four counts of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by United States District Judge Robert G. Doumar. Perry faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 80 years imprisonment when he is sentenced on October 3.

Perry was indicted March 17 on the robbery and firearm charges.  According to court records and evidence at trial, Perry conspired with two other men to rob grocery stores, convenience stores, and a restaurant in Virginia Beach and North Carolina.  The robberies which spanned a two week period in September 2010 included two Family Foods businesses Gates County, a 7-Eleven in Virginia Beach, a pizzeria in Virginia Beach, and a LukOil gas station in Virginia Beach, in which the clerk was shot but survived.

Also arrested and charged in the crime spree were Wade Anderson Watford, 36, and Travis Knight, age 17.

Gates County Sheriff Ed Webb said Watford was originally from Gates County and attended school locally.

Webb said his office worked closely with the Virginia Beach Police Department to solve this case.

“Since these crimes occurred in two states, we decided it was best for the federal authorities to take it over,” Webb said. “Plus, with a federal sentence, it’s day for day as far as time served. These guys are facing some serious time in prison.”

In early September of last year, two armed suspects entered the Family Foods in Gates through a rear door and accosted two store employees as they made their way into the main part of the business. There, one shot was fired, although no one was injured.

At the time there were a total of 14 individuals (customers and staff) in the store.

The suspects robbed two cash registers, ransacked the store office and loaded the pilfered items, including 29 cartons of Newport cigarettes and a pocketbook of one of the employees, into a shopping cart and exited the store through the rear door. They were last seen walking down a path (the old railroad bed) into a wooded area behind the left side of the store.

Four days later, two black males, each dressed in military-style camouflage apparel, came in the front door of the Family Foods store located on NC 32 north in Corapeake. Both men were armed (a long rifle and a handgun).

At the time of that robbery, two employees and one customer, accompanied by a small child, were in the store.

One of the suspects went to the checkout counter and ordered the clerk to open the cash register from where an undisclosed amount of money was taken.

The suspects attempted to have the employees open the store office, apparently in an effort to gain access to the store’s safe, but neither had a key.

By the end of September, Watford and Knight were behind bars and law enforcement officers in both states were looking for Perry, who was later arrested.

The big break came when an eyewitness to one of the Virginia Beach robberies saw two armed, masked suspects, both dressed in camouflage clothing (as used in one of the two Gates County robberies), leaving the scene. That eyewitness followed the suspect vehicle and watched as it ran through a red light.

“Fortunately, it was one of those traffic signals with a camera to nab those drivers that run through red lights,” Webb said. “The Virginia Beach Police used that camera to capture the license plate number on that suspect vehicle, leading them to a residence in the Green Run section of Virginia Beach.”

Surveillance was set up and a search warrant was obtained for the residence. Webb said the search produced evidence connected to the Virginia Beach robberies. However, one of the most intriguing pieces of evidence discovered was news articles printed off the website.

“Those articles pertained to the robberies we had here in Gates County,” Webb noted. “That led us to believe we had who we were looking for.”

Later, Webb petitioned the Virginia Beach courts and obtained a search warrant.

“We used that warrant to locate a shotgun in the residence,” Webb said. “We believe that is the ‘long gun’ as described by witnesses in our robberies. We also located other evidence that is consistent with our two robberies.”

In the meantime, Virginia Beach Police had already collected the camouflage clothing and ski masks found in the residence.

“I commend my officers for their diligence in working this case,” Sheriff Webb said. “Sgt. Randy Hathaway and I spent that initial night with the suspects after their arrest in Virginia Beach. Within two hours, we had a full confession on our cases and the Virginia Beach cases. I’m proud of the way this was handled. I’d like to thank the Virginia Beach Police and the FBI for their help and the federal prosecutor in Norfolk.”

This case was investigated by the FBI, the Virginia Beach Police Department and the Gates County Sheriff’s Office.  Special Assistant United States Attorney Cameron Rountree and Assistant United States Attorney Ben Hatch are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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