LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) – A 91-year-old man who walks with a cane and is hard of hearing pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing nearly $2,000 from a bank, his third such robbery in less than five years.

Leaning on his cane and wearing a headset to listen to the judge, J.L. Hunter “Red” Rountree initially responded “not guilty” when asked for his plea.

“I mean, “Guilty,”‘ Rountree later said. “I’m sorry.”

In August, Rountree handed a First American Bank teller in Abilene an envelope with “Robbery” written on it in red marker, prosecutors said. He gave her a second envelope, telling her to put money in it. Twice the teller asked if he was kidding. After the first time, Rountree said, “Hurry up or you will get hurt.”

A bank employee and some customers got Rountree’s license plate number as he left the parking lot. Authorities stopped him about 20 miles from Abilene.

His lawyer, Shery Kime-Goodwin, had no comment.

Authorities say Rountree’s crime spree began in 1998, a week before his 87th birthday. He was arrested in Biloxi, Miss., minutes after robbing a bank. He was given three years’ probation, fined $260 and told to leave Mississippi.

Less than a year later, in October 1999, he was arrested outside a NationsBank in Pensacola, Fla., after giving a teller a note that said “ROBBERY” and telling her, “Give me the $100s.” He was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to three years in prison, becoming the oldest inmate in the Florida prison system.

Rountree faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine in the Texas robbery. A sentencing date has not been set.

AP-ES-10-09-03 2057EDT



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