Buffalo Man Convicted By A Federal Jury For His Role In Murder Of Three People In Front Of Child Sentenced To Three Consecutive Life Sentences
CONTACT: Barbara Burns
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ROCHESTER, N.Y.—U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Richard Leon Wilbern, 60, of Rochester, NY, who was convicted by a federal jury of the August 12, 2003, armed robbery of the Xerox Federal Credit Union which resulted in the death of Raymond Batzel, was sentenced to serve life in prison by U.S. District Judge Charles J. Siragusa.
“After 17 years, and thanks to the tireless and relentless dedication of our federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals, a cold-blooded murderer has finally been held accountable and the family of his victim has finally received some measure of justice,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Notwithstanding the current widespread effort to demonize our Nation’s law enforcers, both their shortcomings and the virtues are but a reflection of their humanity. Fortunately, their virtues routinely outweigh their shortcomings, and in this case, the compassion and commitment exhibited by our law enforcers helped to deliver our community’s best—and last—hope for justice.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas E. Gregory and Joel L. Violanti, who handled the prosecution of the case, stated that on August 12, 2003 at approximately 9:45 a.m., the defendant walked into Xerox Federal Credit Union (XFCU), located on the Xerox Corporation campus at 800 Phillips Road in Webster, NY. Wilbern was wearing a dark blue nylon jacket with the letters “FBI” written in yellow on the back of the jacket, sunglasses and a poorly fitting wig. The defendant was also carrying a large briefcase, a green and gray-colored umbrella and had what appeared to be a United States Marshals badge hanging on a chain around his neck.
Wilbern went into the cubicle of a female employee and told the employee that he was there to conduct a security assessment and to “stage” a robbery. The defendant subsequently removed two firearms from the briefcase, one described as a handgun, the other a sawed-off shot gun or sawed-off rifle. Wilbern also removed a bag and instructed the employee to fill the bag with money from behind the teller counter. The employee complied with the demands.
Shortly after, the defendant ordered employees and customers to lay down on the floor. While doing so, Wilbern confronted a customer Raymond Batzel who had just finished a banking transaction with the teller. After a very brief verbal altercation, the defendant shot Batzel in the neck which resulted in his death. As Wilbern shot Batzel, a second customer, Joseph Doud, entered the credit union and attempted to turn and run back outside after witnessing the shooting. The defendant shot and wounded the customer in the back as he fled. After shooting the two customers, Wilbern returned to the teller counter area and, while holding the firearm in the air, told credit union employees to fill the bag with cash. The defendant then took the money and fled the credit union leaving behind the umbrella.
In the aftermath of the robbery/homicide at the Xerox Federal Credit Union, the Monroe County Public Safety Laboratory attempted to obtain DNA samples from the green and gray umbrella which was left behind by Wilbern. Two sets of swabs were taken from various locations on the umbrella, including the “external wrap around closure and button”, the “lower latch mechanism”, the “metal shaft and upper latch mechanism” and an “internal strap.” One set of swabs was tested for the presence of DNA while the second set was allowed to dry, packaged and appropriately stored at the lab for future testing. Based upon the technology available at the time, insufficient amounts of DNA were located on the first set of swabs and therefore no conclusions could be drawn.
On November 15, 2011, Webster Police investigators transferred the second set of swabs from the Monroe County Public Safety Building to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) in New York City. OCME had developed the expertise and facilities necessary to perform a DNA testing technique that enables testing to be performed on trace amounts of evidence. This testing technique is referred to as High Sensitivity DNA testing, also referred to as Low Template testing.
On December 28, 2011, OCME issued a report advising that they were able to recover human DNA from each of submitted swabs from the umbrella, and that two of the submitted swabs contained sufficient levels of human DNA to conduct High Sensitivity PCR DNA testing and comparison. Regarding DNA taken from the “umbrella closure wrap around”, the Medical Examiner concluded that DNA from at least two people was located, but included one major male contributor, referred to as “Male Donor A.” The DNA profile of “Male Donor A”, based on a 15 loci result, is expected to be found in only 1 in 6.80 trillion people. As for the second sample, which was taken from the “umbrella latch mechanism (lower)” of the umbrella, based on a 10 loci result, is expected to be found in in one in 138 million people. The DNA profile was placed in a local and state data base with no positive hits.
In March 2016, a press conference was held to seek new leads in the investigation. Details of the crime were released as well as photographs of Wilbern committing the robbery. Anyone with information was asked to call a dedicated hotline.
On March 27, 2016, a concerned citizen contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and indicated that the person who committed the crime was likely a former Xerox employee named Richard Wilbern. The citizen indicated that the defendant worked for Xerox prior to the robbery but had been fired. The citizen also stated that they recognized Wilbern’s face from the photos.
In July 20016, FBI agents met with Wilbern regarding a complaint he had made to the FBI regarding an alleged real estate scam. During one of their meetings, agents obtained a DNA sample from Wilbern after he licked and sealed an envelope. That envelope was sent to OCME, and after comparing the DNA profile from the envelope to the DNA profile previously developed from the umbrella, determined there was a positive match.
Wilbern was employed by Xerox between September 1996 and February 23, 2001 as which time he was terminated for repeated employment related infractions. In 2001, Wilbern filed a lawsuit against Xerox alleging that the company unlawfully discriminated against him with respect to the terms and conditions of his employment, subjected him to a hostile work environment, failed to hire him for a position for which he applied because of his race, and retaliated against him for complaining about Xerox’s discriminatory treatment. Wilbern also maintained a checking and savings accounts at the Xerox Federal Credit Union. Evidence at trial demonstrated that Wilbern was in significant financial distress from roughly 2000 – 2003, including filing for bankruptcy.
The sentencing is the culmination of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Stephen Belongia; the Webster Police Department, under the direction of Chief Joseph P. Rieger, the New York State Police, under the direction of Acting Major Barry Chase, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Todd Baxter, the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Acting Chief Mark Simmons, the United States Marshals Service, under the direction of Charles Salina, and the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Sandra Doorley.