Two indicted on armed robbery charges

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Two men accused of taking part in the armed robbery of a city service station in December 2003 were indicted Tuesday by a Carter County grand jury.
   Indictments were handed down against Allan Curtis Stafford, 21, 100 West H St., Apt. 7 and Michael A. Surplis, 20, 312 Harmon Dr., Rogersville, charging each with aggravated robbery, a class B felony under state law.
   According to police, two male subjects entered the Road Runner Market on West G Street around 5 a.m. on Dec. 10 and demanded money from the employees. One of the subjects brandished a gun and yelled obscenities at the employees, according to reports.
   Surplis and Stafford were arrested a few days later along with Joshua Daniel James, 20, 202 Buffalo Mountain Lane, Apt. 202, Unicoi, who was not indicted in the incident.
   At the time of the robbery, a witness saw two men run and get into a small white vehicle which was described as having a loud muffler that was driven by a third male.
   Elizabethton Police Department Detectives Ed McGee and Matt Bowers said at the time of the arrest of the three men that an informant notified the investigators where the vehicle could be located. At that time, McGee, Bowers and Detective Jason McCall drove to the Buffalo Ridge Apartments in Unicoi County near the Buffalo Valley Golf Course and located the suspected vehicle.
   Bowers said that the investigators then used the temporary tag on the vehicle to trace it back to the owner and were able to link it to James through their investigation.
   During the investigation, Bowers and McGee discovered that Johnson City held warrants for James from an unrelated incident. "Basically what we did was wait for the Johnson City Police Department to fax copies of their warrants on Mr. James to Unicoi County (Sheriff's Department)," McGee said at the time of the arrest. Bowers added, "Then Unicoi County (Sheriff's Department) came and helped us take Mr. James into custody."
   After James was arrested and taken to the Washington County Detention Facility, investigators interviewed him and he admitted his part in the armed robbery of the Road Runner Market on West G Street and told investigators who the other two individuals that were involved were. Surplis was also arrested at the same time as James by Unicoi County Sheriff's Department officers on outstanding warrants. Stafford was arrested by EPD investigators and taken to the Carter County Jail. Later, Surplis and James were both transported to the Carter County Jail.
   "The wheelman, the driver, was Joshua James. Allan Stafford, by his own statements, was the gunman. Michael Surplis just went in and stood behind Stafford as a sort of lookout," Bowers said at the time the three were arrested. "The handgun (a .38-caliber revolver) that was used in the robbery was recovered. We also recovered both bandanas and the hat that was worn by the one. The suspects also identified the gear that they wore."