Nova Guthrie & Craig Pritchert
Twelve bank robberies are linked to a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde.
Pritchert often wore a disguise
It was a typical day at the Klamath First Federal Bank in Bend, Oregon. The bank was about to close and bank teller Rhonda Dent looked forward to a serene evening at home with her husband and four children. Then suddenly, a gunman entered the bank:
“He took control, and he scared us. He intimidated us. There was no thought in anybody's mind of trying to set an alarm off. So he made us all go into the vault, and then he had me fill the bags. After I was done, he told me to go over and get on my knees. And he tied me up. I was scared. I was terrified at that point because I thought, ‘He's going to shoot us all.’”
Four years… twelve banks… over half a million dollars. That was the track record of two outlaw lovers named Craig Pritchert and Nova Guthrie. No wonder some saw them as a modern day Bonnie and Clyde.
Craig Pritchert once seemed destined for athletic stardom. But when his baseball career fizzled, Pritchert headed for the bright lights of Las Vegas. There, he found a new passion—robbing banks. No one knows exactly how many robberies Pritchert committed before his luck ran out. After a bank teller identified him in a lineup, he was sentenced to five years in an Arizona penitentiary. But according to Special Agent Edward Hall of the Phoenix FBI, rather than learn from his mistakes, Pritchert spent his time behind bars correcting them:
“Five years is a long time to spend in prison, and he met other people that had robbed banks. And from past experience of cases I've worked, they exchange thoughts, ideas, a way to perfect robbing a bank.”
Pritchert carried a police scanner
In New Mexico, shortly after his release, Craig met 24-year-old Nova Guthrie. According to Special Agent Jana Monroe of the Denver FBI, Pritchert provided the rebellion and excitement Guthrie desired:
“Nova Guthrie comes from a very small town, and she was raised in a very strict, conservative, very spiritual family setting… After meeting, they went on a bank robbery spree, and that included the states of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, across the south and northwest. Pritchert would enter the bank wearing a disguise. He was always armed with an assault weapon. He had a police scanner so he could monitor any of the police in the area.”
Nova always stayed outside the bank, alerting Craig to any dangers via radio. After each robbery, they drove to a pre-determined location, abandoned their car and fled in a second vehicle. According to Special Agent Monroe, the two led lavish lifestyles with the stolen money:
“They liked to frequent nice places—the ski resorts, ocean resort areas. They look like a very nice, normal couple. There is nothing that's going to stand out that is going to make them different from others.”
She went back to a life of crime
Two years into their crime spree, Craig and Nova risked capture by visiting Nova’s family in Phoenix. At the time, however, Nova was unaware that only Craig was a wanted fugitive. The FBI had no evidence linking her to the robberies. But Nova's family knew the truth and resented Craig for enticing her into a life of crime. According to Special Agent Hall, Nova’s brother confronted Craig:
“He didn't like what he had done and what he had gotten Nova involved with. And he didn't want him to be any part of Nova's life.”
Without Craig, Nova was uncertain what to do next. Confused and remorseful, she heeded her sister’s advice to meet confidentially with Police Chaplain William Fey of the Colorado State Police:
“I think deep in her heart she wanted to be forgiven, but didn’t know how to go about it. At that point, I took my bible and I began to share scripture with her. I said, ‘What do you think it is now that God would have you do?’ Nova said, ‘Turn myself in.’ I said, ‘Let's go.’”
Guthrie & Pritchert were finally captured
The FBI hoped that with Nova's help they could bring Craig to justice. But after her surprising choice to cooperate, she made an equally astonishing turnabout. Nova Guthrie disappeared and returned to a life of crime with Craig Pritchert.
In August of 2003, Nova Guthrie and Craig Pritchert were captured in Cape Town, South Africa. Guthrie managed a nightclub, and Pritchert bought and sold stocks over the internet. A South African tourist traveling in the United States recognized Guthrie from a wanted poster and contacted authorities. After being extradited to the United States, Craig Pritchert was sentenced to 22-1/2 years in prison. Nova Guthrie received a 10 year sentence and was ordered to pay restitution.
She served her time and has been released.