Two women suspected in a string of armed robberies over three days, using a variety of fake guns, disguises and a getaway car, appeared in Yellowstone County Justice Court on Friday.
After their arrest Thursday night, one of the women, 40-year-old Heather Joy Thompson, escaped custody while being left unattended at the Billings Police station.
Officers re-arrested her Friday morning in the basement of a South Side Billings home where police found her pretending to be asleep, said Police Lt. Shawn Mayo. She responded to the two officers by “kicking and yelling and screaming,” the lieutenant said.
On Friday, Thompson, along with 35-year-old Meadow Lee Bighorn, appeared before Judge Pro Tem Lance Lundval who set bond for them at $100,000 and $115,000. Both women are set to appear next before District Court Judge Mary Jane Knisely on May 10 at 10 a.m.
Bighorn is charged with three felony counts of robbery, with an enhancement for using a weapon. Thompson faces three felony counts of robbery by accountability, with a weapon enhancement. She faces two additional felonies for assaulting a police officer, and a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.
Thompson was allegedly the getaway driver, while Bighorn is suspected of entering the businesses brandishing what one victim described as piece of pipe wrapped in electrical tape. In another robbery, the suspect covered her right hand with a pink cloth. In a third robbery, the weapon was covered by “some kind of bag,” the victim told investigators.
The string of robberies began Tuesday night at the Barrel Room Pub and Casino in Billings where Bighorn allegedly entered the business wearing a dark stocking cap and a bandanna over part of her face, according to court records.
Bighorn allegedly demanded money, pointing her hand, covered in a pink cloth, at the clerk. The clerk “wasn’t positive the suspect had a gun,” but complied and the suspect left, records state.
On Wednesday night, Bighorn allegedly entered the Lucky Lil’s Casino at the Rimrock Mall, confronting an employee in the men’s restroom. She demanded the employee “give her the bank,” according to court documents.
The casino employee described the gun as a small steel pipe wrapped in tape. He "refused to comply with the order and demanded she show him the weapon,” after which she turned around and left. The employee followed her outside where he told investigators he saw her get into a white, four-door car and recorded part of the car’s Montana license plate number.
At about 3 a.m. on Thursday morning, Bighorn allegedly entered the Western Executive Inn on King Avenue West holding what a clerk told police "appeared to be a gun underneath some kind of bag."
"'Go ahead and give me the money,'" Bighorn allegedly demanded of the desk clerk. " 'I can't wait until payday.' ”
The clerk "thought she could see a gun barrel" and handed over the cash drawer, documents say.
Surveillance footage from outside the hotel captured the image of a white passenger car with a dent on the driver's side door.
Thompson and Bighorn were found a short time later in a white four-door car on Monad Road. Thompson was wearing a bandanna across her forehead. Officers were given consent to search the car and discovered a "fake gun" as well as several bandannas and other items of clothing "consistent with items worn by the suspect during the hotel robbery,” court records allege.
During interviews at the police station with Detective Steve Hallam, the two women allegedly admitted to the robberies of the Barrel Room Casino and the Western Executive Inn, police said.
A description of Bighorn following the first robbery mentioned tattoos over her eyes. She told the detective she had smeared eye shadow around her eyes to mask her looks. Records allege the pair also told Hallam they were meth users and that officers "would probably find empty baggies and some syringes in the vehicle."
While being left unattended in a police interview room for “a brief period of time,” police said Thompson walked out and disappeared.
She was found in the basement of a house on the 3000 block of Sixth Avenue South at about 2 a.m. on Friday after two Billings Police officers got a tip she was staying there with a man.
When Officers Jeff Stovall and Jeremiah Adams arrived, the man at the house denied he lived there. He acted "very agitated," and used profanity, according to court documents. After several minutes, a second man appeared and gave police permission to search the house.
The officers found Thompson in bed, partially covered by a blanket and refusing to comply with their demands. Stovall pulled back the blanket and she began yelling, kicking and clenching her hands.
"As a handcuff was being placed on her, she kicked her right leg directly at Stovall's genital area," according to court documents. "Stovall jumped back and tripped on a box," and then he and Adams were able to gain control of Thompson's arms. As Stovall helped sit her up she "kicked backwards several times striking Stovall in the knee and shin area," and "was swinging her head to the right and attempted to bite Stovall's right hand."
She continued to yell and scream, according to court documents. She then attempted to kick Adams "in the genital area," but he "blocked the kick with his right leg, resulting in pain and broken skin on Adams' leg."
"As the officers got the defendant out of the house, she continued screaming, kicking, and attempting to be dead weight,” records state.
Prior to the discovery of Thompson, officers had been going to places where Thompson had been previously, Mayo said.
"We have a whole night shift of motivated officers who took it upon themselves to find Ms. Thompson," he said.