A 22-year-old Kingsport man accused of robbing the Walgreens pharmacy in Jonesborough was bound over to a Washington County grand jury on an aggravated robbery charge Thursday while his girlfriend was jailed for contempt of court for refusing to testify against him.
Joshua Arnold, 212 Lewis Lane, was arrested by Washington County Sheriff’s Department investigators Dec. 21 for allegedly robbing the pharmacy on US Highway 11E on Dec. 12.
Rebecca Campbell, a pharmacy technician, testified in a preliminary hearing held Thursday in Sessions Court that a man she identified as Arnold walked up to the pharmacy’s consultation window just after 3 p.m. with his hands in his pockets, gestured as if he had a gun and told her, “I have a gun. Give me a box of Oxy 80 or I’m going to blow your face off.”
Campbell said Arnold warned her not push the pharmacy’s panic button and repeated the threat to shoot her in the face two times as she was attempting to get a pharmacist’s key to a narcotics cabinet.
Pharmacist Chris Helms testified he asked the man, who he could not positively identify as Arnold, what he wanted and in what milligram and the man told him 80 mg OxyContin, a brand name for a time-released formula for the narcotic painkiller oxycodone. He said the man also told him if he did not hurry up, he was going to shoot someone in the face. Helms said he placed a sealed bottle of 100 OxyContin pills on the counter and the man picked it up and left the pharmacy.
Major Matt Rice with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department testified that the case went unsolved until a witness, who learned of the robbery through news reports, called the sheriff’s department and gave a tag number and description of a green van and man and woman he saw leaving the pharmacy at about the time of the robbery.
Rice said the tag number led to the owner of the vehicle who told him her daughter, Amanda Purkey, had been driving the van on the day of the robbery and gave him a Kingsport address where she could be located. When he told the woman he was investigating the Walgreens robbery, Rice said the woman told him Purkey and Arnold were hiding in a back room of her home where Arnold was arrested and Purkey was taken into custody for questioning.
When called as a witness for the prosecution Thursday, Purkey initially refused to be sworn as a witness and stated she would rather go to jail than testify against Arnold. Under direction from Judge James Nidiffer, Purkey waited outside the courtroom with an officer and later swore to tell truth and took the witness stand.
Under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Michael Rasnake, Purkey, who identified herself as Arnold’s girlfriend, said she did not recall the day of the robbery but “may have” driven Arnold to the pharmacy and waited outside for him.
She said she also did not recall the day she was questioned about the robbery and when asked about what she told investigators, Purkey stood up, refused to sit down and told Nidiffer “go ahead and put me in jail.” Nidiffer ordered officers to take Purkey into custody, declared her a hostile witness and sentenced her to 10 days in jail for contempt of court.
After finding the other witnesses’ testimony sufficient to bind Arnold over to the grand jury on the aggravated robbery charge, Nidiffer heard arguments on Public Defender Phillip Ratliff’s request to reduce Arnold’s $25,000 bond to $15,000.
Rasnake opposed the bond reduction, citing Arnold’s record of seven prior felony convictions for which he completed a four-year prison term in July, and asked Nidiffer to instead increase his bond to the original $50,000 amount it was set at following his arrest.
Nidiffer denied the bond reduction request and reinstated Arnold’s bond at $50,000.