Mental evaluation ordered for serial bank robber

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SAN DIEGO — A judge Friday ordered a 90-day psychological evaluation to help determine if a man convicted of robbing three banks within a week should be sentenced to prison or get probation and be placed in a residential drug treatment program.

arraignmentDouglas Michael Ellens, 39, pleaded guilty in November to robbery charges.

Defense attorney Doug Miller told Judge Leo Valentine Jr. today that his client has a cocaine and alcohol problem and should be given a chance in a drug rehabilitation program.

Ellens apologized to his victims and acknowledged his addictions. He told the judge he has hit “rock bottom” while sitting in jail.

“I do realize that I have a problem,” Ellens said. “I just want to change my life. When I go clean, I’m fine.”

But Valentine said that in order to ensure public safety, Ellens needs to be a resident in a strict, two-year drug rehabilitation program or go to prison.

The judge ordered the 90-day diagnostic study so prison officials can evaluate Ellens and recommend either probation or prison.

Ellens’ weeklong robbery spree began Sept. 5 at a US Bank branch in the 5400 block of Balboa Avenue in Clairemont Mesa.

Bank teller Pamela Gonzalez testified at an October hearing that Ellens approached her station and handed her a note telling her to stay calm and hand over all of the money in her cash drawer. Gonzalez said she was told the robber got away with about $6,000.

About 3:20 p.m. on Sept. 12, Ellens handed a demand note to a teller at a US Bank branch in the 4800 block of Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach, then did the same about 90 minutes later at a Comerica Bank branch in the 3300 block of Rosecrans Street in the Midway area, SDPD public-affairs Lt. Kevin Mayer said.

Several hours later, officers tracked the suspect down at a Super 8 Hotel two blocks from the site of the third robbery and arrested him without a struggle.

Alejandra Costantino testified she was working at the US Bank on Newport when Ellens, wearing a hat and sunglasses, put a demand note on her counter that read, “This is a robbery” and “I have a gun.”

The teller said she gave the robber $832 with a dye pack that explodes when the money leaves the bank.

Comerica bank teller Ikhlas Soulaqa testified that Ellens came to her desk and presented a note demanding money and saying he had a gun.

“I was very scared,” Soulaqa said. She said she gave the robber more than $1,000 in cash, which included a GPS tracking device.

San Diego police Detective DeWayne Glazewski testified that Ellens told him that he had been on a crack cocaine binge after breaking up with his girlfriend and had been living in his car.

Glazewski said detectives searched a hotel room and found a folder with cash and part of a GPS tracking device on a bed. Detectives also searched Ellens’ Lincoln Navigator and found clothing worn by the robber, Glazewski testified.

Under questioning, Ellens admitted to all three robberies, the detective said.

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