Two convicted in Tennessee ‘love connection’ bank heist cas

The Associated Press
Friday May 24, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two men who forced a bank manager to rob her own bank while they held her family hostage were convicted Thursday of armed bank robbery by extortion. 

Carlton V. Smith and Thomas A. Nichols had previously been convicted for their role in two similar bank heists in eastern Tennessee, and elements of the trial mirrored those presented to a Chattanooga jury in 1999. 

In Thursday’s case, the two men and a third, who prosecutors say masterminded the scheme he called “the love connection,” targeted Carolyn Pierce, a bank manager in Clarksville. 

Pierce endured an 18-hour siege of her home by the three men before she retrieved $851,000 from the bank. Her husband had been tied up and threatened with death, and their child was at home at the time, as were Pierce’s parents. 

The third man, Doug Daigle, later hanged himself in jail. He didn’t wear a mask, but his inside accomplice did, a man Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Deneke told jurors was Smith. Nichols was the outside lookout, Deneke said. 

Some of the evidence against the men was collected by the hostages. Pierce’s father, Leonard Beaudoin, a former military policeman, surreptitiously hid the cigarette butts left around the house by his captors. The cigarette butts yielded DNA evidence that pointed to Daigle and Smith. 

Carolyn Pierce also remembered seeing a black Mustang creeping toward the money drop after she left $851,000 there. Nichols was driving a black Mustang in East Tennessee when he was pulled over and ticketed by a police officer for running a stop sign. 

Prosecutors told jurors that Smith and Nichols couldn’t have afforded the Harley-Davidson motorcycles they bought in early 1997 before the bank heist. 

But Smith’s attorney, Carl Douglas Thoresen, said in his closing arguments the plentiful testimony about his client’s marijuana cultivation and said the cash could have come from his client’s illegal dealings.