Twin Girls, 15: Why We Robbed Bank

Elysia Wortman of Barnegat, N.J. testifies for the prosecution in the trial of her stepfather Kevin Jones, at the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River N.J., Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2003. Elysia and her twin sister Chelsea, who robbed a bank in an effort to save their family's home, testifies Wednesday, against their stepfather, who did not participate in the robbery but is on trial as an accomplice. AP Photo/Pool

Twin 15-year-old bank robbers testified against their stepfather Wednesday, offering their first public comments about a heist that was supposed to save a house but instead ruined a family.

Chelsea and Elysia Wortman, who are serving four-year terms in a juvenile facility after pleading guilty to armed robbery, said their family's financial problems drove them to commit the October 2002 crime.

"I saw that my family was upset," Chelsea said. "The money was needed, so I decided to rob a bank."

The fraternal twins were 14 when they used masks and their little brother's BB gun to rob $3,550 from a Sun National Bank branch, with their mother acting as getaway driver. Kathleen Wortman Jones, 34, has pleaded guilty in the case.

The girls' stepfather, Kevin Jones, 37, did not know about the robbery until it was over, but is accused of destroying evidence and laundering money. Elysia testified that he told her to throw away her clothing from the robbery to destroy evidence, and Jones also is accused of laundering some of the proceeds in an Atlantic City casino.

Chelsea said her mother thought she was joking when she first talked about robbing a bank.

"She was like, 'You're not going to do that. You're going to get in trouble.' I was determined. I let her know, 'If you're not coming, I'm still doing it,'" Chelsea said.

Chelsea said she and her sister put on their masks and prayed before entering the bank. Chelsea testified that she held a trash bag and Elysia held the BB gun, pointing it at the face of teller Carol Clark and ordering her to put the money in the bag.

The twins gave much the same testimony, but in dramatically different tones.

Chelsea was calm, and even smiled when prosecutor Michel Paulhus pointed to her masked image from the bank's surveillance video. Elysia was more emotional, snapping at defense attorney Philip Pagano when he asked if she was angry at him.

Looking briefly at her stepfather, she said, "I'm mad at HIM and my Mom for getting me into this situation."

Elysia also said her mother asked her to lie to thwart the prosecutions of her parents, but would not say whether Jones had done the same.

Wortman Jones is charged with armed robbery and using a juvenile to commit a criminal offense. If convicted, he could be sentenced to as much as 30 years in prison.

By John Curran
  • Francie Grace

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