An Aiken man was sentenced to 28 years in prison on Wednesday for his role in a February armed robbery, during which an employee of a Richland Avenue business was reportedly tased.
A jury found Michael Tyrone Quarles guilty on charges of armed robbery and kidnapping, after less than an hour of deliberation, according to Assistant Solicitor Kevin Molony, who prosecuted the case along with Assistant Solicitor Nick McCarley.
Quarles is one of three men accused in the Feb. 19 armed robbery of the Quick Cash on Richland Avenue.
“He was the lookout,” Molony said. “The state alleged, and testimony came out, that he was the one who cased the place.” Shortly before the robbery, which was reported about 10:40 a.m., Quarles entered the store to see how many employees were inside, then walked back outside and across the street, where the other two suspects were waiting inside a pickup, Molony said.
The other two suspects, wearing black hooded sweatshirts, carrying a black backpack and armed with two BB pistols they’d purchased a few days earlier, entered the store and robbed the lone employee of about $450, Molony said. They had removed the orange tips from the pistols to “make them appear more real.”
“Before they leave, the victim is hit in the back with a Taser or a stun gun,” he said. “It wasn’t one that was shot at her. It was one that was put directly on her back.”
Witnesses at nearby businesses saw the two men outside the store and were able to provide descriptions to police. Molony said they also testified during the trial. Additionally, surveillance footage captured the suspects inside Rose’s purchasing a black backpack shortly before the robbery.
Molony said the victim called 911 right before the robbers entered to report the two suspicious men.
“Police were on the way,” he said. “Aiken Department of Public Safety responded quickly and found the vehicle that was used and described by those witnesses as being parked across the street.”
Quarles had moved the pickup about a block from the store, and was waiting in the passenger seat with the engine running, Molony said.
“He moved it to the getaway location in order to allow them an easy exit from the Quick Cash business,” he said.
The other two suspects, 21-year-old Carlos Demetrius Williams and 23-year-old Jamaques Deundray Salley, were apprehended several hours after the robbery and are awaiting trial.
“(Quarles) was apprehended March 9, gave a statement implicating himself as being the person that went in and was the lookout, and who drove the truck from one side of Richland Avenue to the other side,” Molony said. “He took the stand today and basically changed the story. In the end, he was found guilty on armed robbery and kidnapping.”
Molony said it’s rare to see a case moved to trial so quickly after an incident. In addition to a lack of DNA and forensic evidence that would have had to be processed, he credited police and the witnesses.
“The Aiken Department of Public Safety absolutely jumped on every lead and were able to connect the dots very quickly, with the help of some very observant and proactive citizens,” he said. “In the end, it was just good police work and citizens that helped out.”
• Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.