Marion resident Arthur Bays has spent the last 82 long years of his life serving his country, his community, and the people he loves. He served in the Korean war, ran a local cafe for years, and even flew Santa in on a helicopter for local kids. You would expect that such a shining example of Americanism would be well-cared-for and supported in his seniorhood, right?
Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Mired in debt and literally forgotten by the government, the elderly man took drastic measures by (poorly) attempting to rob a local bank.
• When police finally arrested Arthur, he told them he needed the money to pay for utility bills and cover his rent. Officers found the money spread out between his upper shirt pocket, lower pocket, and in his V.A. pharmacy bag he had evidently just picked up after the robbery.
• Bays is no mastermind; he came into the bank with only a hidden toy gun and while using a cane. It would have taken mere moments to stop him, if a properly trained and armed citizen or officer was present.
• As for how much he stole, police records show the bank handed over a total of just $12,528. Around $10,829 is currently accounted for, leaving $1,699 hidden in an unknown occasion. Yet, if convinced, Bays will face 20 years in jail – probably longer than his remaining lifespan – and a $250,000 fine.
• It’s undeniable that Bays committed a crime, but we do have to stop and think logically about what would drive such an upstanding citizen to such drastic measures. The VA clearly does a terrible job of caring for our retired veterans, and when people grow old enough to struggle with self-advocacy, they often slip through the cracks.
• To help us understand, we took a look at what Arthur actually owes and where. Records reflect one 2011 foreclosure for $68,751.66 and a 2010 judgement demanding that the man pay $11,921 to Parkway Manor, a local nursing facility. His own statements also make it clear that he currently owes shelter costs and utility bills, too.
• Nearly all of Bays’ neighborhood has spoken out in support of the man, stating that it isn’t something he would ever do. Bill Hill, another local businessman, was one of the first to speak out. “He did a lot for Marion and the community when he was in business,” he said. “It’s sad. That man wouldn’t take a penny if something wasn’t wrong.”
• The former Mayor’s daughter, Rebecca Smith, also stated that Bays had stopped coming for his daily meal at a local restaurant. When Smith asked him why, he said he could no longer afford to eat there. “I told him not to worry, that at the very least the store or other customers would cover it. I think he got embarrassed that he didn’t have the $3.”
• Bays also advised Smith that his social security payments had stopped coming in recent weeks. He told her that he had called to clear up any issues, and was told there was no evidence he ever existed in the system.
• “That’s not right,” Smith responded. “Our elderly, our children, and our veterans are the three highest priorities of this country.” It’s hard to agree when situations like this unfold, forcing an elderly soldier who served his country and lived a clean, virtuous life to consider crime.
• State Bank of Whittington, the bank victimized in the crime, has refused to answer any public questions about the case. Instead, they are referring all questions to the FBI. But several locals are putting very public pressure on the bank to have the charges dropped; it isn’t clear whether this is even possible.