By Dave Hamilton
Fifteen years ago this week, the spree of a serial bank bandit came to an end, solving a robbery at Fernie, and more than a dozen other Canadian towns. A new book tells the tale, but also contrasts the life or robber James Edward Krimm with that of his brother, who served his country in the military for 20 years.
The Brothers Krimm: The bank robber and the hero was written by North Dakota journalist Cecile Wehrman, with the cooperation of the robbers family, following his suicide.
James Edward Krimm served seven years in a Canadian prison following a spree of an alleged 20 or more robberies in British Columbia and Alberta between April 1995 and August 1996. He was captured following a robbery in Grande Prairie on Aug. 20, 1996.
Upon his release from prison in 2003, he was deported to the United States and promptly began robbing banks again. He was briefly imprisoned on weapons charges in 2005, in Iowa, and upon his release, robbed another 17 banks in five states and in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.
Wehrman’s interest in Krimm’s story grew out of her own curiosity after holing up in her rural farm home the night a five-hour manhunt was underway in her neighborhood. On Sept. 14, 2009, Krimm robbed a bank at Williston, N.D., shot at a state trooper, then took his own life once surrounded. He died three miles from Wehrmans home.
Wehrman became intrigued when she learned the mans family had not heard from him in 16 years. His mother did not know whether he’d ever married or fathered children, whether he was dead or alive. Further, Wehrman learned the robber had been molested as a boy, and also, that he sexually abused his younger brother for years before leaving his mother’s Michigan home. But unlike the robber, his brother went on to have a productive life, serving in the U.S. military for 20 years.
What turns one victim into a predator and the other into a hero? asked Wehrman. She decided the only way to explore that theme was to research the robber’s crimes, following his trail from Michigan, to Utah, north into Canada, back to the United States, and all the way to the remote corner of northwestern North Dakota where his life ended.
But the story is much more than just a re-cap of a criminal life.
Though the psychological study of the serial criminal is fascinating, what really grabs readers is the story of Rob Krimm, who overcame abuse, despite many challenges, to be a contributing member of society, said Wehrman.
She recommends the book for fans of true crime stories, as well as to victims of crime and abuse because of the positive message it brings, illuminating the path of one man’s redemption, despite the odds. It also illustrates in graphic detail the consequences of failing to deal with childhood trauma, and the costs borne by everyone in society when victims use their own abuse as an excuse to harm others.
The reality is there are many more Jimmy Krimm’s out there, said Wehrman. Our aim is to help victims of crime and abuse find closure, and hopefully, provide insight to help prevent future predators from developing.
A complete list of the dates and places of known robberies are as follows:
CANADIAN BANK ROBBERIES
April 26, 1995 Lethbridge, Alberta
May 4, 1995 Medicine Hat, Alberta
May 18, 1995 Kamloops
May 30, 1995 Vernon
July 4, 1995 Salmon Arm
August 8, 1995 Sardis
Sept 21 1995 Revelstoke
October 1995 Kelowna
Oct 26, 1995 Calgary, Alberta
Oct 26, 1995 Calgary (two in one day)
Dec 14, 1995 Kamloops
Feb 7, 1996 Kimberley
Feb 27, 1996 Trail
Apr 22, 1996 Fernie
June 10, 1996 Port Albernie
July 30, 1996 Prince George
Aug 20, 1996 Grande Prairie
Aug 20, 1996 Valleyview, Alberta
(capture, not robbery)
12/02/96 Sentenced in Canada
08/02/2003 Released from Canada prison
U.S. BANK ROBBERIES*
July 18 2006 Jackson, Minn
Aug. 4, 2006 LeMars, Iowa
March 20, 2007 Devils Lake, ND
May 11, 2007 Canby, Minn.
April 2007 Park River, ND
*June 25 2007 Weyburn bank robbery
Aug. 17, 2007 Dilworth, MN
Jan. 4, 2008 Duluth, MN
March 28, 2008 Redfield, S.D.
April 25, 2008 Watertown, S.D.
June 18, 2008 Lisbon, ND
July 2, 2008 Wahpeton, ND
Oct 10, 2008 Mandan, ND
Dec. 16, 2008 Jamestown, ND
March 9, 2009 Dilworth, MN (again)
Sept. 14, 2009 Williston, ND
*One Canadian bank robbery, in Weyburn, Sask., contained in U.S. spree.
(Plus three more strongly suspected, two more in Wahpeton, ND, and one in Carleton, NE)