Of Stateline Liquor Store Suspect sought in armed theft

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

By MICHELLE FRIEDRICH

Associate Editor

NEELYVILLE, Mo. -- Butler County authorities are searching for an Arkansas man already wanted for violating federal probation in connection with the Saturday night armed robbery of a Neelyville liquor store.

At 9:45 p.m. Saturday the clerk at the Stateline Liquor Store in the 21500 block of Highway 67 South was robbed at gunpoint by a white male, according to Butler County Investigator Wes Popp.

The suspect, according to Popp, pulled into the parking lot in a Chevrolet pickup, "walked in and went to the cooler and pulled out a case of beer.

"He went up to the clerk. She rung it up. He gave money as if to pay for it."

When the clerk opened the register, "he pulled a gun out of his right coat pocket and asked for the money out of the (register)," said Popp, who described the clerk as appearing on surveillance video to be "frozen (like she) didn't know what to do."

The surveillance video, Popp said, shows the clerk opening the drawer, him "pulling the gun out and pointing it at her."

The suspect "ended up grabbing the money from the (register) and stacking in on the counter," Popp said. "He put the gun back in his pocket, grabbed an undetermined amount of money with one hand and the case of beer with the other and then left in the truck."

The direction of travel, Popp said, was unknown.

While deputies were on the scene investigating the robbery, Popp said, a woman from the Neelyville area came into the store and heard the store owner and clerk giving deputies a description of the suspect and vehicle.

The descriptions were "familiar to her" and she thought she knew the suspect, Popp said.

The woman, he said, asked to see the security video, and she "identified the suspect as Lonnie (Ray) Blanton" of Corning, Ark.

Popp said Clay County, Ark., deputies arrived at the store to assist, and they also were familiar with Blanton.

The Arkansas deputies, Popp said, knew of a location where Blanton might be in Arkansas.

Authorities, Popp said, went to that location, which was a few miles down Highway 67 South, "where we found the truck parked. ... The truck was still warm."

Blanton's nephew, who was at a residence next door, was shown the surveillance video and "confirmed it was his uncle," Popp said. "... The nephew said (Blanton) showed up an hour before we arrived.

"He didn't know if he was in the house."

Authorities subsequently executed a search warrant on the residence, but did not find Blanton inside, Popp said.

Blanton, 52, is on federal supervised release and is wanted by the U.S. Marshal's Service for violating that supervision, said Popp, who contacted the Marshal's Service Sunday to assist since it is believed Blanton is somewhere in Arkansas.

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