SPD held nab robbers with soft spot for gambling

An observant Syracuse Police Department traffic cop pointed Liverpool Police in the direction of an Atlanta couple suspected of robbing and injuring a Valero convenience store clerk in the northern suburb on Jan. 9.

John Van Dyke, 22, and Jennifer Folsom, 24, temporarily residing on Ash Street on the city's North Side, were each charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and fourth-degree possession of a weapon. The couple stole about $300 and two cartons of cigarettes, according to Liverpool Police Chief William Becker.

The man and woman were arraigned before Liverpool Village Justice Anthony LaValle late Saturday night Jan. 10. The judge set bail at $250,000 each.

The incident began about 12:45 a.m. Jan. 9 when the couple entered the Valero Food Mart at 416 Oswego St. The clerk, Ali Derhem, 56, tried to fight off the robbers, one of whom pulled a small knife.

"The victim suffered a severe laceration on his head," Becker said.

As the couple escaped, Derham called 911.

Responding to the call was LPD Officer Kenneth Hatter, a former SPD officer, who -- as he drove up with siren sounding -- witnessed the couple in a white Ford Explorer SUV. He saw them discard clothing as they sped away. The clothes, which Hatter retrieved, contained blood evidence linking them to the attack, Becker said, and a knife with a 7-inch blade was found at the scene.

Derham was treated at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Later Friday morning, Syracuse police officers stopped the Explorer because its Georgia license tag was expired. The officer realized that the two people in the vehicle matched the descriptions of the Liverpool suspects. The SUV was impounded, and the suspects' names were relayed to Liverpool.

LPD Officer Michael Lemm, a former SPD detective who directed the investigation for Liverpool, followed up the SPD's traffic-violation report, applied for search warrants and examined the vehicle. Blood evidence was found on the Explorer's driver-side door, and it matched the clerk's bloody shirt, Becker said.

Lemm credited the SPD for its sense of teamwork. "It's a classic case of inter-agency cooperation," the detective said.

Van Dyke and Folsom each confessed to the crime, according to Becker and Lemm, and the couple admitted they spent the cash gambling at Turning Stone Casino in Verona.

"They used Diamond Cards, and those cards document exactly how much money they deposited and exactly which games they played," Becker said. "And we recovered the (stolen) cigarette cartons."

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