Community Outraged after Bank Heist That Left Three Dead, Two Wounded
NORTHAMPTON, Pa. (AP) _ A few days after Martin Appel’s arrest for allegedly taking part in a bank robbery that left three people dead, someone sneaked onto his property and spray-painted ″Hang em High 3/8″ on his trailer.
Several miles away, drivers for a taxi fleet have been pelted with eggs or called ″killer cabbie″ because they worked for the same company as Appel and Stanley Hertzog, the second suspect in the bank robbery.
The slayings of three innocent, likable people would shock any community, but the brutal manner of Friday’s holdup at the First National Bank of Bath branch in East Allen Township has multiplied the outrage and bewilderment in this semi-rural section of the Lehigh Valley.
Residents of Northampton, Bath and other towns interspersed among the cement mills, potato farms and strawberry fields 60 miles north of Philadelphia can’t fathom why two men would enter the bank with guns blazing, killing three women employees before fleeing with a little more than $2,000.
″Bank robbers shoot their way out of a bank, not in,″ said Dan Kereb, a Cementon resident who recently lost his job when Mack Trucks closed a plant in nearby Allentown. ″There’s one piece of information everybody wants to know - Why did they do it, shoot people for twenty-two hundred bucks?″
Funeral services were held Tuesday for two of the three victims - teller Janice Confer, 48, of Northampton, and secretary Jane Hartman, 34, of Catasauqua. Teller Hazel Evans, 55, of Coplay was buried Monday in a private ceremony.
The two injured people continued to improve at hospitals. Two other people inside the bank during the attack escaped unharmed.
The killing was ″an appearance of evil itself,″ the Rev. David Batchelder of the First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua said at Ms. Hartman’s funeral in Northampton. ″What happened here offers no ... reason, no sense and no rationale.″
The community’s outrage flooded over when it was learned Friday afternoon that two men had been arrested in connection with the robbery. Two hundred people gathered outside the district justice’s chambers, cursing the suspects and shouting ″Kill ‘em, Kill ’em 3/8″ as the two were led from the storefront office into police cars.
David Miller, a Board of Supervisors member in East Allen Township, which has no police force of its own, said residents were just numb and sad, not angry. But fellow supervisor Grace Check, a customer at the bank who knew the three victims, disagreed.
″They are very angry. They just want the men punished. But what punishment could be enough? You have to remember, this is a small community and many people banked there. People knew them,″ she said.
″They should add a day to deer hunting season, and let them out with bells on their heads,″ Jerry Barnack, a cement hauler, suggested to fellow patrons at the Miller Manor bar Monday evening.
Police this week continued their tight grip on information, declining to speculate on a motive for the slayings or disclose whether investigators have one. Eighteen state police investigators were working on the case along with the FBI.
Information on Appel and Hertzog remained sketchy and shed no light on why they allegedly committed what Northampton County Coroner Joseph Reichel called ″needless, unnecessary and brutal″ killings. Some of the bullet wounds were in the victims’ backs, he said.
Appel, 28, of Northampton, and Hertzog, 29, of Allentown, were described by co-workers at the Quick Service Cab Co. in Allentown as regular guys who caused no trouble and seemed incapable of committing such a crime. The two men joined the company about two years ago and regularly worked the 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift without incident, often taking dinner breaks together. Two fellow drivers said they were aware of no drug or alcohol problems.
″In my wildest dreams I couldn’t imagine these guys doing something like that,″ said one driver who spoke on the condition he not be identified.
″They were both real nice guys,″ said another driver. ″Stanley, he was the blond-haired one. He was immature, like a big kid. Marty Appel, he was very quiet. I would say this took us by surprise.″
Hertzog lived with his father and mother on the east side of Allentown, and neighbors there were reluctant to talk about him.
Appel lived in a mobile home park in semi-rural Moore Township, about five miles north of the bank. He had lived there about a year, making no friends with other residents, according to five neighbors interviewed Monday.
He had at least one prior brush with the law. In 1984 he was placed on one year’s probation on a conviction for impersonating a police officer. He was suspended from his job as a corrections officer at the Lehigh County jail in 1984, authorities said.
″Nobody ever saw him in the yard or doing anything. He never had any cookouts or children running around,″ said Tony Farkas, a 35-year-old decorator. ″The curtains were drawn all the time. It didn’t look much different than it does now.″