A Fort Smith, Arkansas man who pleaded guilty to two armed bank robberies in Springfield and Joplin hanged himself in the Greene County Jail. Under the terms of a plea agreement in June, Robert Bruce Knepper, 45, would have been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison without parole. Probation and parole officers were completing his pre-sentence investigation report at the time of his death. The court had not yet set a date for his sentencing hearing.
Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Kelly Palmer says Knepper went back into his cell around 10:00 on August 17 and hanged himself. He says his cellmate was in a common area of the jail at the time. Palmer says Knepper was not on suicide watch and had not visited with jail doctors. “There were no indicators,” Palmer said.
Knepper admitted that he robbed Liberty Bank in Springfield on March 29, 2010, and Great Southern Bank in Joplin on Sept. 16, 2010. Knepper also admitted that he used a loaded handgun, which he carried in a shoulder holster, to steal $80,000 from Liberty Bank. Knepper used a loaded Springfield Armory 9mm handgun to steal $404,350 from Great Southern Bank.
According to court documents, Knepper entered Liberty Bank, 210 N. W. Bypass, Springfield, at approximately 4:45 p.m. on March 29, 2010. He presented a note to a bank employee and demanded the bank manager give him cash from the bank’s vault. Knepper, who placed his hand on the pistol grip of the handgun, threatened several times to kill everyone in the bank. The manager placed $80,000 from the bank vault into a bank bag and gave the bag to Knepper. Knepper took the keys to the bank manager’s vehicle and fled in the manager’s car, which was abandoned about a mile away from the bank.
According to court documents, Knepper entered Great Southern Bank, 1232 S. Range Line Rd., Joplin, at 5 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2010. Knepper brandished a handgun, jumped over the teller counter, pointed the handgun at bank employees and demanded they open the vault.
On February 13, 2011, a bag containing a handgun was found at a Red Lobster restaurant in Fort Smith. Police officers also found $166,000 in the bag, along with various hotel and car rental receipts. The receipts led officers to Knepper, who was staying at a Comfort Inn in Fort Smith, and he was arrested.