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In Sterling, both accused armed robbers now under lock and key

STERLING – Bonnie and Clyde they are not.

After threatening him with a gun and a knife, forcing him into the back seat of a car, hitting him in the ear so hard that he needed stitches, all they took was his cellphone, his coat and gloves and a couple of pocket knives.

That’s according to investigators, and to court records charging accused armed robbers James Zacharias and Samantha Jo Thomas with two counts of armed robbery, aggravated battery, aggravated unlawful restraint and unlawful restraint.

The most serious charges are the armed robberies. The first count, the one that accuses them of using a gun in the Feb. 3 attack in Sterling, takes the potential penalty of 6 to 30 years up a notch, adding a possible 15-year enhancement.

The aggravated battery is for bludgeoning the man in the head; aggravated unlawful restraint is for using a knife and child locks to keep him corralled in the back of the car; and the simple unlawful restraint charge takes the knife out of the picture, court records show.

The first two counts come with a 3- to 5-year penalty, the last with 1 to 4 years.

Zacharias, 26, of Sterling, had been out on parole for a 2016 burglary since Oct. 19 when he was arrested Tuesday morning in Dixon. Thomas decided to turn herself in to Sterling police shortly before 10:30 that night. It was her 27th birthday.

Zacharias is in Whiteside County jail on $250,000 bond, Thomas on $100,000. Both were arraigned today and have preliminary hearings Feb. 24.

In addition to the armed robbery, Zacharias also is facing a Jan. 27 charge of possession of less than 5 grams of meth in Lee County; of failure to appear on a drug paraphernalia charge in Ogle County; and of violating his parole.

He was sentenced in 2016 to 4 years on two counts of burglary. He also has a 2013 conviction for theft and a 2012 conviction for another burglary, all in Lee County.

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