By Pete Smith ……..
Any robbery and murder of a coin shop owner will catch the attention of other dealers and their customers. Sometimes the story of these cases reaches the national media. In 2015 it was troubling news when four coin dealers were killed during robberies in the last six months of the year. This is an unusual occurrence over a short period of time.
In the first incident, two dealers died about 9:30 Monday morning on July 20, 2015, during a robbery in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Dwight Brockman, 67, and George Manley, 76, were shot at The Coin Shop at 510 West Lincoln way in Cheyenne. Brockman was the owner of the store. A $5,000 reward was offered by the Numismatic Crime Information Center (NCIC) for information leading to an arrest and conviction. No arrests had been made as of November.
On Saturday, November 9, 2015, in Austin, Indiana, John M. Turner, 79, was killed at John’s Coin and Jewelry Shop at 61 West Main Street. Four people were arrested on November 11 as coins and jewelry were found at a home in Louisville, Kentucky. On November 13, a 21-year-old Kentucky man was charged with the murder. His 31-year-old brother was also charged with related crimes.
Then on November 25, 2015, 58-year-old Bentley Brookes was killed at Pacific Precious Metals on Main Street in Vancouver, Washington. An 18-year-old woman, suspected in the murder, died in a high-speed car crash while fleeing police. The 21-year-old man driving the car was charged with auto theft, causing a death while fleeing police, and other charges.
In the past, other coin dealers have been the victims of serial killers and individual attacks. In 1990, Charles T. Sinclair was charged with the murders of two coin dealers in Billings, Montana. It was believed that he was responsible for a series of coin shop murders from 1980 to 1990.
The first of Sinclair’s victims was David Sutton, 36, who was found dead in his antique shop in Everett, Washington, on January 27, 1980. An estimated $80,000 in silver dollars was missing.
The next victim was Thomas Rohr, 41, of Mishawaka, Indiana, killed on August 28, 1985, during the robbery of his coin shop.
On August 22, 1986, Robert and Dagmar Linton disappeared from their trailer at a Washington State campground. Their pick-up truck was found abandoned later in the day at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Their bodies have not been located. They were not coin dealers and the motive is unknown. Sinclair was linked to the crime through the use of their stolen credit cards.
On November 1, 1986, Ruben Lucky Williams, a coin shop owner in Vacaville, California, was shot in the head and robbed.
On July 14, 1987, the body of Leo Cashatt, 45, was found by his wife at Cashatt Coins in Spokane, Washington. He had been shot in the head.
On March 12, 1988, LeRoy Hoffman, was killed in Kansas City, Missouri. Several thousand dollars was missing.
On May 4, 1990, Kelly Finnegan in Murray, Utah, at the Legacy Coin Shop, was shot in the head but survived. About $60,000 in merchandise was taken.
On July 31, 1990, Charles Sparboe, 60, and his assistant, Catharine Newstrom, 47, were shot to death in a Billings, Montana, coin shop. An estimated $54,000 was taken.
It was after the double murder in Billings that authorities began the link the string of murders to a single suspect. Sinclair was apprehended and held in jail in Anchorage, Alaska while fighting extradition to Montana. His death there of an overdose of blood pressure medication was ruled accidental.
The story of “The Coin Shop Killer” was told in an episode of Body of Evidence on Court TV featuring profiler Dayle Hinman. The show was first broadcast on March 1, 2008.
Gary Evans was another serial killer with at least five victims including three of his criminal accomplishes and two coin dealers.
On September 8, 1989, Evans killed Douglas J. Berry as he slept in his store in Watertown, New York.
On October 17, 1991, Evans killed Gregory Jouben, 36, in his coin and jewelry store in Little Falls, New York.
Evans was transported in a police van on August 14, 1998, when he kicked out a window and jumped out of the van. As he was chased by the police, he fell to his death off the Troy-Menands Bridge over the Hudson River.
The story of Evans was told in Every Move You Make by M. William Phelps, published in 2005. Phelps was an investigative journalist and credited Jim Horton as the detective who arrested Evans.
A few other coin shop murders are noted although this list may not be complete.
On March 14, 1989, a robbery occurred at Newport Coin Exchange in Newport Beach, California. Renee King, 38, and Clyde Oakes, 45, were killed while store owner, Bill King, was shot four times and severely wounded. One suspect confessed and said that he acted alone. He was convicted and received a long prison sentence. A second suspect was arrested a year later and charged as the shooter. He was initially convicted and sentenced to life in prison, was later granted a new trial and was acquitted at his third trial.
In August of 1994, a police officer, Willis Cole, 30, was shot and killed while responding to a robbery at D & S Coins in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. Two men were charged in the shooting.
On July 19, 1995, Robert Rose, 52, was shot and killed during a robbery at Renrob coins on Main Street in South River, New Jersey. An inventory identified 19 coins worth $138,275 that were missing.
On November 25, 2003, Jordan Allgood, 43, was shot during a robbery at Allgood Coin in St. George, Utah, and died later in the hospital. The case was mentioned on America’s Most Wanted and a tip led to an arrest. One suspect pleaded guilty and another was found guilty at trial.
On February 11, 2011, exonumia dealer Steve Tannenbaum, 62, was struck and killed by a spree killer who was fleeing police in Brooklyn, New York. This death was unrelated to his business.
In August 2011, Steve Halfon, 61, a Brooklyn coin dealer, was kidnapped off the street as he was leaving his shop, the Liberty Coin Co. He was later found beaten and unconscious on the street in Midwood and died in the hospital. Three suspects were charged with the crime.
On October 31, 2013, in Albemarle, North Carolina, Eldridge Roger Gibson, 81, was shot during a robbery at B&G Coins on West Main Street. He was taken to a hospital where he died about five hours later. A suspect was identified from surveillance video and charged with the crime.
On May 21, 2014, Bill Shuler left home to meet a man and buy some coins. Two days later his body was found in the woods in Tarpon Springs, Florida. He had been shot in the head. A suspect in the case was arrested a year later after robbing eight banks while he was on the run.