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82-Year-Old Robbery Suspect Has Long Criminal History

March 31, 1989

DENVER (AP) _ An 82-year-old man suspected as the ″salt-and-pepper bandit″ in 10 recent armed robberies has impressed his neighbors and minister as caring, thrifty and charitable, but has a criminal history dating to 1921.

Jack Kelm was one of Denver’s most notorious robbers in the early 1940s, the taller partner of the ″Mutt and Jeff″ stickup team that terrorized a half dozen supermarkets. Kelm also used to be known in prison as ″the bifocal bandit″ because of his age, said Wayne Patterson, a retired warden.

Kelm was arrested Tuesday in Longmont, northeast of Boulder, after robbing a bank and making his getaway on a stolen bicycle, the FBI said. A U.S. Magistrate on Wednesday ordered Kelm held on federal armed robbery charges, but in a hospital because he needed minor surgery for a blocked urinary tract.

Neighbors in Greeley didn’t know Kelm by any of his nicknames.

″If he’s a bank robber, he has to be some kind of Robin Hood, because he never seemed to have money of his own,″ said Michelle Terriere, a former neighbor.

Kelm used to buy day-old bread to feed ducks and geese at a city park, and would bbuy snacks for children, Terriere said.

Kelm was ″the perfect neighbor,″ said Denise Warner, who lived two doors from him for almost three years. ″He’s not a lavish spender and it appeared he was just making it on a pension.″

Kelm is suspected in a string of bank, restaurant and supermarket robberies in the last two years in Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley and Longmont, all north of Denver. Witnesses described a ″salt-and-pepper″ robber, at least 60 with medium height and build, who always stole a vehicle and showed a gun, said Robert Pence, the FBI agent in charge in Colorado.

Kelm was 15 when he first served time in a reformatory in St. Charles, Ill., and was sent to a Colorado reformatory in 1924 for burglary. In 1925, Kelm was imprisoned for stealing a car. He escaped and was caught twice, winning release from prison in 1932.

In 1936, Kelm escaped from a prison road gang in Florida while serving time for breaking and entering, said Bob Macmasters, spokesman for Florida’s prison department.

Kelm was in and out of prison in Colorado from 1940 through 1971.

Pence said Kelm was caught Tuesday by a man whose 11-year-old son said he saw the holdup man take off a stocking mask outside the bank. The father followed the suspect in a car and then disarmed him in a struggle at a nearby shopping center, Pence said.

Kelm was armed with a harmless starter’s gun, authorities said.

Acquaintances say Kelm wore 1940s-style clothes and drove an older model used car.

Jerry Franz, minister of the First United Methodist Church where Kelm is a long-time member, called him ″a wonderful, caring person″ who helped the church in many ways. He said Kelm was a retired house painter.

″He is one of those people who is always wanting to help people,″ Franz said. ″He’d take some of our older members around town for errands or to the doctor when they needed to go.″

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