Mary Hayes trembled as she was asked to relive that terrible day that she thought might be her last.
Hayes was in Marin County Superior Court on Monday as a witness in the trial of accused serial bank robber Christopher Wootton. Hayes was the teller at Union Bank in Mill Valley’s Strawberry Village shopping center when it was robbed in December 2013.
Wootton, suspected of being the “Cotton Ball Bandit,” is charged with more than 10 counts of bank robbery that occurred in Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo and San Rafael throughout 2013, including the Union Bank robbery. He is reported by Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian to have been armed in at least one of the robberies.
Wootton faces a potential life sentence under the three-strikes law.
Hayes had trouble watching the security video of the robbery. Hayes held her hand to her forehead and held back tears as she saw the footage, which showed a man in a knit cap approach her at her teller station and hand her a note.
The note, later introduced as evidence, read “This is a robbery. Give me all the money. Hurry.”
Hayes was one of three employees at the Union Bank branch during the attempted robbery. The employees were preparing to close up for the day when the robber entered and walked straight toward Hayes, the only teller on duty.
“I’m a pretty good judge of people,” Hayes said during testimony. “He just came right at me, no fumbling for a receipt or a slip or anything that you might normally expect. I thought, ‘Here we go.’”
Hayes testified she had already locked up her cash drawer and couldn’t access the code for the cash dispenser. She testified that she looked toward assistant manager Yusef Hanis during the holdup.
“[Hayes] looked nervous,” Hanis said during testimony. “She was looking for something and her face was red. At that point, my finger was on the [panic alarm] button.”
Hayes and Hanis were located behind a bulletproof “bandit barrier,” but a third employee was at a desk near the front of the bank and Hayes said she was scared the robbery could turn into a hostage situation.
The bandit eventually left without any cash.
Hayes testified she has a heart condition and felt like she was having a panic attack after the attempted robbery.
Marin County Sheriff’s Deputies and other agencies were called to the scene after the robber left and reportedly responded within 10 minutes.
Asked if she recognized the robber in court, Hayes described Wootton.
Wootton was arrested on Dec. 11, 2013 after allegedly robbing a Novato bank and leading officers on a chase through San Rafael, according to police. The chase ended in Terra Linda when Wootton crashed his silver Saturn and attempted to flee. During the pursuit, Wootton was shot by a Marin sheriff’s deputy.
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