SALISBURY, Mass. — A routine sweep of license plates by state police bagged them an unexpected prize — an alleged bank robbery duo whom police had been seeking for almost two weeks.
A New Hampshire couple, alleged accomplices in the New Year’s Eve armed robbery of a downtown Haverhill TD Bank, were arrested by state and local police at a Salisbury Beach motel and will soon be arraigned in Haverhill District Court.
Andrew J. Billcliff, 25, 7 Kimberly Road, Kingston, and Jillian E. Shay, 24, 7A Button Drive, Londonderry, were arrested Friday at the Beachway Motel on Beach Road without incident after state police conducted a routine check of license plates, according to state police.
According to state and Haverhill police, it is believed Billcliff and Shay played a role in the robbery that allegedly saw 27-year-old Leo Willwerth of Seabrook walk into the TD Bank branch and threaten to detonate a bomb inside the bank if he didn’t receive money.
The duo were arraigned in Newburyport District Court on Friday on charges of receiving stolen property over $250 after state and local police discovered a large amount of gold jewelry in their motel room, believed to have been stolen during a Derry housebreak. A getaway car used during the bank robbery was found parked outside the motel, according to Haverhill police.
They were expected to be arraigned on armed robbery charges soon in Haverhill District Court.
Police allege that on Dec. 31, just before the 5 p.m. closing time, Willwerth walked into the TD Bank at 153 Merrimack St. in Haverhill, acting like a customer, then handed a teller a deposit slip with instructions written on it.
According to a police report, Willwerth’s note read, “Do not panic, we have a bomb, I got a gun, empty your drawer, no dyepacks, no trackers,” and “safely call the cops when I exit.” The suspect was handed $860 in cash, then left the bank on foot. Police said Willwerth did not display a weapon or a bomb during the robbery. The robbery was reported to police about 5:03 p.m.
Willwerth was arrested less than 48 hours later at his Linda Lane residence by Haverhill and Seabrook police, then extradited back to Massachusetts. He was arraigned at Haverhill District Court on Jan. 8 on charges of armed robbery and making a false bomb threat.
Willwerth was identified as a suspect in the armed robbery based on surveillance video captured at the bank and earlier video surveillance footage taken at a Seabrook Wal-Mart that saw him wearing the same clothes.
Armed robbery carries a maximum penalty of life in state prison and making a bomb threat carries a maximum of 20 years in state prison, police said. The New Year’s Eve robbery was the third bank robbery in Haverhill over the past two months.
According to state police, troopers belonging to the Community Action Team were conducting a routine check of license plates in the Greater Newburyport area and found Billcliff and Shay’s car parked at the Salisbury Beach motel. Once concluding the suspects were wanted in connection with the TD Bank robbery, police obtained warrants for their arrest. Aided by local police, state police Trooper Michael Crowley entered the motel room and found the suspects, along with several pieces of jewelry and a gold purity testing kit.
Also found were several used and fresh hypodermic needles, empty plastic bags with white and brown residue, and spoons crusted with residue. Both suspects denied ownership of the jewelry.
“Billcliff stated that he tested the jewelry for the individual at his request,” Crowley wrote in his report.
Police confiscated the jewelry and quickly determined it matched items reported missing from a Derry house that had been burglarized earlier. Salisbury police Sgt. Timothy Hunter and Officer Keith Forget assisted state police in the arrests, according to court documents.
The motel arrests were two of six conducted by the CAT team during many hours of operation that saw it saturate the Greater Newburyport area. More than 60 citations were written, 11 vehicles towed and several summonses issued during the early morning hours Friday, according to state police.
Staff writer Mike LaBella contributed to this report.