DNA links NWA bank robbery suspect to previous robbery at same bank

Fox 24

Fayetteville police used DNA evidence to link a suspect in a recent bank robbery to a previous robbery at the same bank.

Richard Varnell, 42, is accused of robbing Centennial Bank, 3010 W. Martin Luther King Blvd., on Dec. 7 and April 19, according to a police report.

Varnell entered the bank on Dec. 7, pulled out a semiautomatic handgun and demanded money. The suspect then fled on foot, according to the report.

Police searched the area for the suspect and found a hat and jacket that they determined were worn by the suspect, according to the report.

The hat and jacket were sent to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory in Little Rock. 

Centennial Bank was robbed again on April 19. Varnell was arrested that same day on suspicion of that robbery. He was found carrying money that was taken from the robbery, the report states.

State Crime Lab personnel found that Varnell’s DNA matched the DNA taken from the clothing that was located after the December robbery, according to the report.

Police found several similarities between the December and February robberies. The similarities include the following:

  • The same approach and fleeing path were used.
  • The suspect’s disguises were items shoplifted from or sold at a Walmart.
  • Varnell purchased a bus ticket to leave Fayetteville on both Dec. 7 and April 19.
  • Clothing items related to the Dec. 7 robbery and clothing tags related to the April 19 robbery were found in the same wooded area near the bank.

Also, after the December robbery, a bank employee said that the suspect was clean shaven, had “dark” eyes, a scar below his bottom lip and decaying front teeth. Varnell had a beard when he was arrested in April. 

Police obtained a search warrant to shave Varnell’s face, and a scar was found below his lip on the same area of the chin the bank employee described. He was also found to have decaying front teeth.

Varnell, who was listed in the police report as homeless, was booked into the Washington County Detention Center.

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