WEST CHESTER. He was known as The Jogging Bandit to state police investigators who chased him for months in southern Chester County and northern Delaware in the early 1980s, and he had an odd connection with the infamous Johnston Brothers Gang.
But now, Walter Guyer just wants to be left alone and to get the disability payments he says he needs to survive.
Guyer, 61, of Wilmington, has a date later this month in Common Pleas Court to ask a judge to end the probation he was sentenced to in 1985 but to which he apparently never submitted. He said the Veterans Administration has stopped sending him his monthly disability checks because of a warrant issued for his arrest in 2003.
“It is imperative that his case be closed out and the warrant be dismissed so that he can regain his disability benefit and be able to move on with his life,” wrote his attorney, Steve E. Jarmon of the Ciccarelli Lawyers firm, in a motion filed last month asking the court to terminate the probation.
Guyer’s situation brought back memories for a state police trooper who arrested him in 1981 as well as for one of his victims. Both expressed some ambivalence about his request.
“We never got the restitution that we were supposed to,” said a woman whose home near Route 52 Guyer broke into and stole thousands of dollars worth of gold and silver. “But I don’t know if that’s worth keeping a man on probation this long.”
“It seems to me that his claim might have some legitimacy,” said Thomas Cloud, the former trooper who encountered Guyer almost 30 years ago.
Now a West Chester private investigator, Cloud wondered why someone couldn’t have simply contacted Guyer before seeking a warrant. Guyer has been living openly in his native Delaware without any apparent criminal activity since his release from a Pennsylvania state prison more than a decade ago.
Guyer’s attorney declined to comment on the case or on his client’s condition. But in his petition, Steve E. Jarmon says Guyer is fully disabled and has had no source of income besides disability checks after his 1998 release.
According to court records and an interview last week with Cloud, Guyer was involved in a series of burglaries in the early 1980s in the New Castle County, Del., and Chadds Ford areas
At that time, state police, the FBI and Chester County Detectives had broken the so-called Johnston Brothers Gang. The gang had robbed homes and businesses in the four-state region and eventually murdered some of their associates in the so-called Kiddie Gang. Murder trials for gang leader Bruce Johnston Sr. and his brothers, Norman and David, were held in 1981, with all three found guilty of multiple killings.
“Here it was right after the Johnston trials and we were getting clobbered with burglaries, even high-end burglaries,” said Cloud.
The break-ins took place in Hamorton, Longwood, Mendenhall, and along the Route 100 and Route 52 corridors in northern Delaware, the heart of the Brandywine Valley ” “All very nice parts of our area,” said Cloud.
State police in Avondale worked closely with New Castle County police, doing roving patrols to catch a burglar in the act. Cloud said investigators nicknamed the suspect The Jogging Bandit because someone wearing jogging clothes or a tracksuit had been seen near one of the break-ins.
“We just assumed the burglar was posing as a jogger” to check out targets or deflect suspicion. “Whether it was true or not, I don’t know,” Cloud said.
As many as 15 burglaries in Chester County were tied to the same suspect. In late 1981, New Castle County police got a tip that led them to Guyer. With a search warrant for his home, police discovered a treasure trove of stolen goods, Cloud said.
“I remember the first time I went down and saw all the property they recovered; it was breathtaking,” Cloud said. “There was so much stuff. I don’t think he ever got rid of most of the stuff he stole.”
One item that caught Cloud’s attention was a Sony television taken from a home in Mendenhall. Cloud said the same television Guyer had stolen was also pilfered years earlier by someone in the Johnston Gang and returned to its owners.
Cloud said police recovered a great deal of what had been stolen and returned the property to the rightful owners. “A tremendous amount was identified,” he said.
Guyer eventually cooperated with authorities, and Cloud convinced him to take a ride past some of the homes that had been burglarized that summer. In particular, Guyer pointed out three homes as his targets: one on Hillendale Road in Kennett, where he took gold jewelry, antique watches and silver coins valued at $15,000; another on Sapling Drive in Pennsbury, where he took a sterling silver antique place setting, an antique pistol and jewelry worth $7,000; and a home on Honey Tree Lane in Pennsbury, where he stole sterling silver pitchers, spoons, knives and gold jewelry worth $33,000.
The victim interviewed last week said she has not forgotten the break-in or what she and her husband lost.
“It did impact us quite a bit,” she said. “I haven’t thought about the burglary for so long, but we didn’t get back all that he stole. A few pieces. But I miss some of them because I’m very sentimental.”
The burglary spree also involved a break-in at the Delaware home of Ruly Carpenter, then-owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, she recalled.
Guyer was charged with 10 Pennsylvania burglaries in December 1981. At some point he became a fugitive and was not locked up until June 1983.
After a non-jury trial, Judge Robert S. Gawthrop III sentenced him to 3½ to 15 years in state prison and imposed a 20-year probation term that was to run concurrently with the prison time.
Guyer “maxed out” his sentence, serving the full term instead of being paroled. And when Guyer was eventually released to Delaware in 1998, “he was never told that he had to report back to Pennsylvania to finish out his remaining five years of probation,” his lawyer, Jarmon, wrote in his motion.
In October 2003, Common Pleas Judge Juan Sanchez signed a bench warrant at the request of the county Adult Probation Office against Guyer for failure to report after his release. But until this year, he did not know he was wanted on the arrest warrant.
According to Jarmon, Guyer was contacted by the U.S. Veterans Administration, which told him that because of the warrant for his arrest and an apparently open case against him, the disability checks he had been receiving would cease. This “caused a great hardship on him and his family,” Jarmon wrote.
Jarmon said his client has lived in Delaware since his release and free of criminal convictions.
A hearing is set for Oct. 28 before Judge David S. Bortner. First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Carmody on Thursday said he had not seen Jarmon’s petition and did not know if his office would oppose the request to terminate the probation. Courtesy of Daily Local.
UPDATE: Ciccareli Lawyers has successfull quashed the warrant and the Judge has relisted this matter to make a final determination on the Petition to End his Probation.
Ciccarelli lawyers are experienced in fighting for peoples rights in Criminal Defense, Probation, Parole, Probation Violation andÂ Parole Violation Matters.Â Contact one of our experienced criminal attorneys at (610) 925-2500.