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John Wilder

DERRY, N.H. — John Wilder, 23, the prime suspect in a string of bank robberies in Londonderry, Salem, Plaistow and Haverhill, Mass., appeared in two courtrooms Thursday to answer to some of the charges against him. He is being held in the Rockingham County jail.

In Londonderry, he was dubbed the Santa Claus bank robber. In Plaistow, he was the man who donned the same clothes to rob the same bank twice in two weeks, police said.

Salem police said they caught Wilder shoplifting at Bob's last month and tied him to the multiple bank robberies. He has not yet been charged with any Salem bank robbery, according to the Salem District Court criminal clerk's office.

But Wilder of Danville pleaded not guilty Thursday in Derry District Court to charges he struck two Londonderry banks in December. He is due back in Derry District Court Thursday.

Wilder was charged with the Dec. 11 robbery at St. Mary's Bank on Nashua Road and with the Dec. 24 robbery at the Sovereign Bank on Orchard View Drive. In both cases, he is charged with saying he had a weapon and demanding money.

Bank employees said the robber wore a scarf around the lower part of his face and covered his head with a "Santa-type" hat with a Red Sox logo, according to Londonderry police Sgt. Timothy Jones.

The robber asked for $100 bills and told the teller to empty all the money in the drawer. Police later found a Santa hat near a Dumpster outside the bank. They also found a gray-and-white striped scarf in the Dumpster, similar to the one the robber wore. Police canvassed nearby stores and found both items displayed side by side in the TJ Maxx store. Police said Wilder later told them he bought the hat to cover his earrings because he was unable to remove them.

He also appeared in Plaistow District Court Thursday on charges he held up the Sovereign Bank on Route 125 on Feb. 12 and tried again two weeks later. The second time, the teller refused to give him any money. Bank employees gave police a description of his black Chevrolet Avalanche and a partial license plate, which led police to identify him as the suspect, according to court papers.

Wilder pleaded not guilty to those charges earlier. On Wednesday, he waived a probable cause hearing, meaning his case will be moved to Rockingham Superior Court.

No information was available yesterday from Haverhill, Mass., police.

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