BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A case against a Fort Madison man accused of aiding and abetting Lafayette Anthony “Tony” Evans who was shot and killed in June 2016 after robbing a bank on the city’s west end, started in full Wednesday.
Kenneth Lilly, 53, of Fort Madison, is charged with aiding and abetting the June 29, 2016 morning armed robbery at Fort Madison Bank and Trust’s west branch. Investigators have charged Lilly with being the driver of the vehicle that dropped Evans off at the bank knowing that Evans was going to rob the bank.
Testimony on Wednesday focused on evidence gathering from Department of Criminal Investigations’ special agents Ryan Herman and Joe Lestina. Lilly’s girlfriend Amber Sawyer also testified as to Lilly’s whereabouts and any vehicles that Lilly and Evans would have had access to on the days leading up the burglary.
Lilly is currently free on bond and is being represented by Assistant Public Defender Jonathan Stensvaag of Burlington.
Andy Prosser, an Iowa Assistant Attorney General, is prosecuting the case for the state. Prosser put Herman and Lestina on the stand to testify about contradictions in Lilly’s statements during interviews as well as numerous text exchanges with numbers in California and Alabama from a phone that was used by either Lilly or Evans, a fact that wasn’t cleared up with the testimony.
Lestina said during interrogations, Lilly had given different times that he had left his girlfriend’s home the morning of the robbery. Lestina testified that Lilly had said during an initial interrogation Evans had left the home around noon for Rockford where he worked on vehicles for extra cash. Lilly has been in a relationship with 28-year old Amber Sawyer. Sawyer said during her testimony in the afternoon that Lilly split time living between her place and in Rockford prior to the robbery.
At a subsequent interview Lestina said Lilly told investigators he got the couple’s children up at around 10:30 to 11 before leaving for Rockford.
Prosser then introduced video footage of what appeared to be Lilly at Casey’s making a purchase the morning of the robbery with a passenger in the maroon Suburban that is believed to have been the vehicle Evans got out of when he entered the bank for the robbery. Footage was also shown of Lilly at Kempker’s True Value and at McDonald’s all between the hours of 8:40 a.m and 10:46 a.m.
Stensvaag didn’t have the opportunity to cross examine Lestina on the video footage, as Judge Mary Ann Brown halted testimony after Prosser had introduced all the video evidence. Stensvaag will begin cross examination on the evidence in the morning.
Some of the most interesting testimony of the day came from Sawyer, who had trouble recalling a lot of the facts from the day of the robbery and the days leading up to the crime, including questions surrounding the use of CB radios in Lilly’s cars. Sawyer said she didn’t remember whether or not her gray Chevy S10 pickup had a CB radio in it, until Stensvaag showed her her previous answers in a deposition.
Stensvaag seemed to be creating foundation that Lilly, Sawyer and others routinely used CBs as a form of communication while in the vehicles. Prosser led questioning with Lestina that the CBs could have been used to avoid a digital footprint common to cellphone usage.
Evans was shot dead after running from the bank with several bags of cash and taking shots at a Lee County deputy before being shot in the chest by Fort Madison Police officers. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Lilly was arrested in October after being charged with aiding and abetting first-degree robbery, which is a Class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
The officers were cleared by the Iowa Attorney General’s office of any wrongdoing in the shooting. The case picks up tomorrow at 9 a.m.