Test results from DNA evidence collected from two Halloween masks confirmed the suspicions of South Williamsport police that Benjamin Villanueva III, 21, and Philip Jon Hall, 22, were the two masked men who allegedly robbed a clerk nearly three years ago at the A-Plus Sunoco at 4 E. Mountain Ave. in the borough.
The test results matched court-ordered DNA samples that Sgt. James Taylor collected from the two men, who have been charged with robbery and related offenses stemming from the Oct. 11, 2009, holdup.
Taylor alleges that Villanueva, who lives across the street from the store at 3 E. Mountain Ave., and Hall, a city resident who lives at 800 Rural Ave., are the two who robbed clerk Kimberly Frey of cash and 14 packs of cigarettes.
During the holdup, one of the masked men struck Frey in the back of the head, police said.
A huge break in the case came two days after the robbery when borough residents called to report two men acting in a suspicious manner in a street behind the Woodlands Bank branch office at 618 W. Southern Ave. on the morning of Oct. 13.
Police seized a Chrysler convertable and detained two men, one of them being Villanueva. Close to a nearby dump bin, police recovered a Halloween mask. A second Halloween mask also was recovered by officers in close proximity. A loaded handgun was inside the second mask.
Investigators believed that with the help of residents, they foiled an attempted robbery at the bank. Villanueva later was arrested - and convicted - for his role in the plot. He served a sentence of under a year at the Lycoming County Prison.
The vehicle was impounded. Officers recovered from the car several items they believed were used in the convenience store holdup, including a ski mask and a blue tote bag. The license plate on the car came back to a vehicle owned by Christine Hall, Philip's mother, police said. However, it turned out that the plate had been removed from Christine Hall's Dodge Caravan, police said.
Philip Hall and Villanueva have been charged with robbery, recklessly endangering, simple assault, theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy.
Villanueva, who faces an additional charge of aggravated assault for allegedly striking the clerk, was arraigned Friday before District Judge Jerry C. Lepley and jailed in the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $150,000 bail.
Hall was arraigned Wednesday before District Judge Gary Whiteman and jailed in lieu of $50,000 bail.