Over the course of one night, a West Virginia man managed to threaten his jitney driver paramour, trick her into being his getaway driver and rob three people on the South Side, Pittsburgh police said.
Terrance Ross, 35, of Morgantown is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing Tuesday on charges of kidnapping, robbery and other crimes.
The trouble, Zone 3 detective Carl Morosetti wrote in a criminal complaint, began Saturday, Aug. 24.
A man told police he was sitting in his car in the 1000 block of Bingham Street when a large man in a white shirt wielding a knife demanded his car keys and said "I'll stab you." The man gave the robber his wallet but not his car keys and the suspect hopped into a car. The man later learned that someone used his credits cards to make purchases totaling more than $640.
The second robbery, police said, happened that same night. A woman told police that she was talking on her cell phone with friends while she walked to meet them at a home in the 1300 block of Breed Street. When she arrived, a man "forcefully reached over her shoulders," grabbed her cell phone and ran, Detective Morosetti wrote.
The third robbery happened a short while later. A second woman told police she was walking near East Carson and Eighth streets when a man pulled out a knife, grabbed the backpack holding her work uniform, sliced her arm and ran while she yelled for help. That woman has since recovered, the detective said.
The South Side sees robberies fairly regularly but "this particular case differed because rarely is there a person that does ... three robberies in the middle of the night," Detective Morosetti said.
When Detective Morosetti learned that the first victim's credit cards had been used the night of the robberies, he contacted the stores where the purchases were made to see if they had surveillance footage. Pictured in those images were Mr. Ross and a woman Detective Morosetti learned owned the getaway car, according to the complaint.
When he met with that woman this month, she told him she works as a jitney driver and agreed to drive Mr. Ross, who she had been seeing since July, in exchange for gas and Newport cigarettes. Mr. Ross drank Vodka and popped 10 Xanax pills during their drive through the South Side, she said, and often told her to stop the car so he could grab a drink at a bar, relieve himself or do other things.
"She was not aware she was a getaway driver until the third incident," Detective Morosetti said.
"After this robbery, she realized what Ross was capable of and did what she was told out of fear," he wrote in the complaint.
The woman told police Mr. Ross took her keys each time he got out of the car, which made her "uneasy" and "nervous." She also said he threatened to harm her and her autistic teenage son.
Mr. Ross is being held in the Allegheny County Jail on $50,000 straight bail, an amount police have inquired about raising. His arrest, the detective said, is not typical of most in the South Side.
"Don't take it as the South Side being one of the most dangerous places in the city," Detective Morosetti said. "It's still very safe."
Liz Navratil: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.