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Madison Heights

February 20, 2013

Madison police catch suspects in armed robberies

One suspect bailed out of vehicle while still in motion

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

MADISON HEIGHTS — Two men, accused of robbing a couple at gunpoint in a hotel hallway before leading authorities on a high-speed chase, are now in custody after they abandoned their truck mid-chase, only to be captured shortly thereafter. 

No one was hurt in the incident.

The suspects are Charlie James Lester, 40, of Detroit, believed to be the armed robber in the incident, and Ryan Matthew Hauser, 31, of Hazel Park, believed to be the driver.

The two men were arraigned by Magistrate Kimberly Wilson in Madison Heights 43rd District Court Feb. 13. Both are charged with armed robbery: a life felony.

Hauser faces three additional charges: one count of fleeing and eluding, third degree, a five-year felony, and one count each of possession of marijuana and driving while license is suspended II, both one-year misdemeanors. 

Lester is being held on $150,000 cash bond or surety. Hauser is being held on $207,000 cash bond or surety.

The incident occurred just after midnight Feb. 10, when police received a 911 call regarding a robbery at gunpoint that had just occurred at the Fairfield Inn, located at the corner of northbound Stephenson and 14 Mile.

A 25-year-old Dearborn man and his 23-year-old Battle Creek girlfriend were checking in to their room on the second floor when Lester allegedly snuck up from behind them in the hallway, pointing a pistol at them.

The couple said Lester ordered them to surrender all personal property, taking their wallet, purse, jewelry, phones, keys and baggage. Then he ran off, boarding a red 2004 Ford F-150 pickup truck that was idling in the parking lot.

Having gotten a good look at the getaway vehicle, which had a ladder in the back, the victims went to the lobby and notified police. Madison police issued an alert with the suspect vehicle description and, soon enough, a Madison road patrol officer saw a matching truck heading southbound on Interstate 75 near 11 Mile.

The officer turned on his lights and attempted a traffic stop, but the suspect vehicle sped up to try and elude the officer.

What followed was a drawn-out chase: I-75 to McNichols Road, then south on I-75, then east on I-94, exiting at Chene Street, and finally slowing down at Hendrie Street.

It was here the suspects’ truck, running out of gas, slowed enough for one of the suspects to bail out of the vehicle while it was still in motion; the vehicle continued down the street until it veered off the road and clipped a fire hydrant. 

“The driver jumped out of the moving vehicle,” hitting the fire hydrant, himself, “but the passenger (the gunman) waited until the vehicle came to stop,” said Madison Police Lt. Robert Anderson.

Police immediately captured Hauser, the driver. As for the gunman, Lester, police followed his footprints in the snow and found him lying low in a field, his pistol half-obscured in snow nearby. The suspect was taken into custody without resistance.

Evidence linking the men to the crime was found inside their crashed truck, including the possessions of the couple robbed at the hotel, according to police.

Police are also investigating whether Lester and Hauser were involved in a separate armed robbery, three hours earlier, at Nine Mile and Hilton in Ferndale.

“We’ve seen this happen before, and we take high-speed pursuits very seriously,” Anderson said. “And that’s why we’re so happy now to see the increased penalty: In addition to his other charges, this man (Hauser) is facing a five-year felony for fleeing and eluding, which in the past used to be a misdemeanor. There are four different degrees of fleeing and eluding now, such as whether you hurt someone or kill someone — the penalty keeps increasing.”

The lieutenant said it is fortunate no one got hurt.

“We were happy with the quick response times. The fact the victim called immediately is helpful,” Anderson said. “We had a general idea of where the suspect vehicle may go. Fairfield Inn is at 14 Mile and Stephenson, which is right next to the freeway — thankfully, we had a patrol officer in the area. And we’re thankful for the assistance of Royal Oak and Ferndale police; when chasing armed suspects, it’s nice to have a few extra officers at your side.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.