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Purse snatcher, getaway driver arrested

High school classmate recognized man while watching theft
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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With help from a high school classmate who recognized him and other witnesses, sheriff’s deputies arrested a man who allegedly swiped a woman’s purse midday Monday. Josh Tucker Bidart, 22, of Auburn remained in custody at Placer County Jail Tuesday on felony charges of robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime after he allegedly grabbed a woman’s purse as she was entering the Bank of America located on Bell Road at Highway 49 in Auburn. He did not act alone, however, according to Lt. Jeff Ausnow with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. Dwight Jacob Silva, 22, of Grass Valley, was also arrested for reportedly driving the getaway vehicle Bidart hopped into once he had snatched the bag. The theft happened at about 12:55 p.m. when Bidart came running, briefly struggled with the woman who was trying to hold on to her purse and shouting for help, and then took off across Bell Road with a line of bank patrons and an employee following him. Auburn resident Cami Botonis was inside the bank when she heard the woman yell and saw Bidart run by. She said just a short while earlier she recognized Bidart “just walking casually” while she was on her lunch break in the Raley’s Bel Air shopping center. She said she recognized him as a classmate from Bear River High School but she did not talk to him Monday. Later, Botonis was inside the bank making a deposit when she saw Bidart again. “He was running alongside the bank and then I heard the lady scream and a bunch of people ran out to chase the guy,” Botonis said Tuesday. “I had recognized the guy from high school and left my information with the lady whose purse was stolen.” Botonis said she then immediately returned home and searched for her yearbooks. After about an hour or two she found Bidart’s photo and called the Sheriff’s Office. “Later I met with the investigator and gave my recorded statement and picked him out of a photo line up,” Botonis said. Botonis said Bidart graduated two years after she did in the class of 2006. She said the two were not friends but she would see him at high school parties or other school events such as football games. “I was kind of surprised I knew someone who would have mugged someone, especially in the local town they lived or lived in,” Botonis said. Ausnow said detectives worked throughout the evening to arrest both men. All of the stolen property, including cash deposits the victim was planning to make for a local business, were recovered. “Thanks to alert citizens who provided good witness statements, this crime was quickly solved,” Ausnow said. On Tuesday, bank patron Reanna Durham said she visits the branch on Bell Road about once a week and has never had a problem. However, she said hearing about the incident reminds her to be on guard. “It concerns me because I have a 2-year-old and you can get distracted,” Durham said. “When you hear about it, it makes you think twice about your surroundings, like we all should do anyway.” Penn Valley resident Allan Knepper said he stops into the Auburn bank often. He said he pays attention to news stories and was not surprised to hear of the type of crime committed Monday. “I think there is a little more of it going on these days,” Knepper said. “People are hungry and that makes it worse.” Bidart was held on $50,000 bail and Silva on $60,000 bail as of Tuesday. Reach Jenifer Gee at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com.