SC police: 71-year-old man in Jaguar robbed 4 banks to save his business, then killed himself

By Meg Kinnard, AP
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

SC cops: Jaguar driver, 71, behind bank robberies

COLUMBIA, S.C. — No one expected Frank Palazzo to rob a bank when the 71-year-old painting contractor rolled up to one in his silver Jaguar.

However, authorities say Palazzo did just that for the fourth and final time Monday, desperate for money to keep his business afloat. He’d already borrowed thousands from relatives in the past year.

Police were chasing the luxury car down a state highway in Myrtle Beach when Palazzo shot and killed himself. The car wrecked, though no one else was hurt.

Palazzo’s sister-in-law, Marian Palazzo, told The Associated Press her brother-in-law bought the Jaguar when business was good. But the economic downturn hit the construction industry especially hard — costing 20,000 jobs in the past two years in South Carolina — and Frank Palazzo’s business was crumbling. He slipped into depression and took medication to help him sleep.

“I guess if you get desperate enough, anybody does things that you wouldn’t normally do,” Marian Palazzo said from her home in Plainfield, Conn.

She said Palazzo had also still been mourning his 94-year-old mother, who died last spring, and his wife’s death several years before. It had all pushed him into a spiral of depression, which may be what pushed him to start robbing banks, she said.

Using surveillance video, Horry County police say they’ve identified Palazzo as the same man who demanded money from a teller and manager at a Socastee bank, then ordered both employees into a back room while he fled. A week later, he robbed a bank several miles away at gunpoint.

And in November, he did it again, returning to the first bank, again pointing a gun at its teller, and again leaving with money in hand. Authorities didn’t know Palazzo was the culprit until after he turned that gun on himself, but they knew the same man was responsible for all three robberies.

Stunned that the charming, once happy-go-lucky man had not only robbed a string of banks but then took his own life, relatives are even further shocked that he hadn’t been caught earlier.

“How do you rob a bank in a Jaguar?” Marian Palazzo said, referring to her brother-in-law’s flashy getaway car. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me. If you couldn’t have caught him, if he did it before, I don’t understand.”

Palazzo’s siblings are planning a trip to South Carolina to identify his body, which the family then plans to cremate.

“You don’t really see this coming,” she said. “I’m just so surprised by all of this.”

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