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Zahnd wins jury trial as "Bicycle Bandit' convicted

Armed robber had gone on Barry Road crime spree

A jury convicted the man who became known as the Platte County "Bicycle Bandit" of seven counts, including robbery, assault, and armed criminal action in Platte County Circuit Court December 10. The jury recommended Miguel M. Vaca, 45, of Kansas City, North spend life and a total of 102 years in prison for his crimes.

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said, "Three times over a period of 3½ weeks, Miguel Vaca covered up his face with a ski mask, grabbed a gun, and demanded money from someone at gunpoint. Worse yet, every crime he committed increased in violence. The jury was right to convict him on all charges, and they were right to recommend he spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Platte County jurors returned seven guilty verdicts against Vaca for a string of armed robberies along Barry Road near I-29 in late 2002. They recommended he spend life in prison for one of his robberies and a total of 102 years for the remaining crimes. The court will determine whether the sentences run consecutively or concurrently.

When he was caught, police found a dollar bill taken during Vaca’s first robbery with handwritten details of the crime, stating the robbery "felt great."

Zahnd said the confession on the dollar bill, together with ballistics evidence from where Vaca fired his gun at two crime scenes, were significant reasons for the guilty verdicts.

"It’s not every day someone writes a confession on the money he took during that crime," Zahnd said. "After robbing two women at gunpoint, Vaca kept a souvenir of his crime and described its details, using information only the gunman would know."

Vaca became known as the "Bicycle Bandit" because he used a mountain bike to flee from his crimes. He was armed with a handgun and wore a ski mask during each of his offenses.

Zahnd and First Assistant Prosecutor Mark Gibson presented the state’s case against Vaca at trial.

Vaca robbed Salon North Nail Salon at 5559 N.W. Barry Road on Oct. 21, 2002. The victims testified that a man in a ski mask came in the business at about 7 p.m., while two women were alone in the salon. After pointing a gun at the women and receiving only one dollar, Vaca grabbed and squeezed one of the victims’ buttocks and then told the women to get on the floor. A witness saw a man in a ski mask with a mountain bike about the time of the robbery.

On Oct. 30, 2002, Vaca robbed the business next door to the salon, Quality Cleaners at 5557 N.W. Barry Road, again wearing a ski mask. An employee of Quality Cleaners, who was working alone at the time, testified that Vaca produced a gun and demanded money. When he did not immediately respond to Vaca’s demand, Vaca fired a shot into the ceiling. The employee gave Vaca about $100 cash, and Vaca told the employee to lie on the floor. Witnesses again saw a man fleeing the scene on a mountain bike.

On Nov.15, 2002, Zahnd said Vaca’s crimes reached their peak with an armed robbery at the Coves North Apartment Clubhouse at 5417 N.W. 85th Street, just North of Barry Road. Zahnd said several children were gathered for a birthday party at the clubhouse when Vaca entered after concealing his face with a ski mask. Eyewitnesses testified that Vaca pointed a gun at several young girls and told them to get on the floor.

Vaca then grabbed the mother of the birthday girl and demanded money. When no money was found, Vaca pushed the woman down the stairway of the clubhouse and tried to force her into a restroom, where she thought she would be raped or killed. When she resisted, Vaca hit her on the head with his handgun. The woman broke free and ran out of the clubhouse screaming for help. When an area resident tried to assist, Vaca fired a shot at the resident.

"Every crime this man committed escalated in violence," Zahnd said. "First, he just showed a gun. Then he fired a shot into the ceiling. Finally, he held children at gunpoint, tried to push a woman into a restroom, hit her on the head, and shot at a man who tried to come to her aid. Who knows what would have happened next if he had not been caught."

The robbery unit of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department broke the case when they canvassed the Coves North Apartments, passing out "wanted" flyers listing a description of the suspect. A resident identified Vaca as fitting the description of the robber, and Vaca was arrested.

A search of Vaca’s residence later uncovered a small black revolver, a mountain bike, a large amount of cash, and the dollar bill confessing to the Salon North Nail Salon robbery.

Prosecutors called two forensics experts during the trial. One expert testified that the handwriting on the recovered dollar bill matched Vaca’s handwriting. A ballistic expert testified that bullets recovered from the crime scenes matched the gun found in Vaca’s residence.

When police arrested Vaca, they searched his residence. They found a one dollar bill that prosecutors said had his confession written on it: "I robbed Salon North the night of October 21, 2002. The woman . . . was good looking. She had [nice buttocks]. She was with another woman at the time. I came in the door and told them to give me some money. It was my first robbery and it felt great. Before I left I told those women to get . . . on the floor and stay there, then I left.”

Zahnd said, "Business owners often save the first dollar they earn. This man did the same thing, he kept a souvenir from his first crime, and that blunder ultimately led to his conviction. The community should thank these jurors for making the Kansas City area a safer place by putting the defendant behind bars for a long time.”

Vaca is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 13 at 10 a.m.



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