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Suspect in Forest bank robbery arrested

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By Tom Wilmoth

The man suspected of robbing the SunTrust Bank in Forest Tuesday afternoon was arrested in Forsyth County, N.C., Thursday night.

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    The suspect was identified by a caller who saw the story on a North Carolina television news report and notified the police with information.

    William Myrl Smitherman, 19, of Clemmons, N.C., is being held on a fugitive warrant from Virginia in the Forsyth County North Carolina Jail, awaiting extradition.

    Bedford County investigators have been working closely with investigators from the Galax Police Department and the Roanoke City Police on the robbery because he is also suspected of robbing banks in January in those localities.

    The green Mustang that was seen by a Forest SunTrust Bank teller leaving the bank and the Forest Burger King employee before the robbery was also recovered and played an important role in apprehending Smitherman, Gardner stated. These were the only two witnesses at any of the robberies that saw the Mustang.

    According to Major Ricky Gardner of the Bedford County Sheriff's Office, when Smitherman is brought back to Galax, he will be served warrants for the bank robbery in Forest.

    The first robbery that Smitherman is being linked to took place in Galax and then a second bank robbery followed in Roanoke. Both of those occurred in early January. When photos of the suspect were made available after this week's robbery in Forest, it was believed that all three robberies were linked, authorities have stated.

    Gardner said investigators were confident that the suspect responsible for the Forest robbery wasn't from this area, adding that he had believed the man was either from Southwest Virginia or North Carolina. Galax rests on the North Carolina/Virginia line.

    Gardner said the tip that came from the North Carolina television report led to investigators tracking Smitherman down. He was interviewed, taken into custody and evidence was seized.

    It's not clear whether Smitherman will fight extradition back to Virginia. “We'll eventually get him back here. It's up to him how long that will take,” Gardner said.