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Joey Coyle Found Dead in South Philadelphia Home

August 15, 1993

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The life and escapades of Joey Coyle are over, just weeks before his brief encounter with fame and fortune was to be immortalized in a Hollywood movie.

He grabbed $1.2 million that spilled from an armored car, spent freely and then was acquitted of theft charges, making him a folk hero to people who have dreamed about finding millions of dollars and getting away with it.

Coyle, 40, was found dead Sunday in his home. He had hanged himself with an electrical cord, Detective Robert Whalen said.

Coyle’s sister told police he was still despondent over his mother’s 1981 death, police Cpl. Joseph McQue said. He also was scheduled for sentencing next month on a recent drug conviction.

A movie set to be released Sept. 10, ″Money for Nothing,″ chronicles his experiences. It stars John Cusack.

Director Ramon Menendez said he wanted the movie to show ″what it means for a kid like that to find money. He thinks he has choices, but the money makes him paranoid.″

On Feb. 26, 1981, the unemployed longshoreman and two friends were driving behind a Purolator Armored Services truck when its back doors swung open and two money bags fell out.

Coyle scooped up the unmarked bills and started spending freely, handing out $100 bills all over his neighborhood.

When the FBI entered the case, Coyle panicked and decided he would be safe in Mexico. He was arrested on March 4, 1981, at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport with $105,000 stuffed in his boots.

In February 1982, a jury found Coyle innocent of theft by reason of temporary insanity.

Jurors applauded and women in the courtroom kissed him.

Purolator, now out of business, recovered all but about $196,000 of the money. The company was purchased by Loomis Armored Inc. in 1983.

Coyle was very cooperative with the movie makers, said Robert Curran, director of the city film office in Pittsburgh, where most of the movie was filmed.

He said it seemed strange that Coyle would take his life one month before he would have capitalized on his local fame turning nationwide.

But Coyle’s life also had a dark side, including an addiction to methamphetamines at the time he found the cash. He had six drug convictions.

The most recent conviction came May 12, when he was found guilty of delivering a controlled substance. He faced a 33- to 45-month prison term at sentencing Sept. 29.

Coyle ″couldn’t take the pressure of finding the money and all the publicity that went with it,″ his attorney, Harold M. Kane, said in 1986 when Coyle was in jail for violating probation. ″His drug habit worsened and he didn’t know how to control it. He needs help.″

″I wouldn’t put nobody in my situation,″ Coyle told an interviewer this year. ″Everybody’s thinking: ‘That must have been great.’ Little do they know it was nothing but agony and despair. I musta aged in those six days 20 years.

″You have no idea what money does to you - especially that kind of money.″