Alleged bank robber 'did what he had to do'

LACONIA — A man who allegedly robbed the downtown branch of the Bank of New Hampshire Friday afternoon told police "he did what he had to do", according to police affidavits obtained from court yesterday.

Johnathan Ellinger, 43, who police listed as "transient," allegedly said, "Yup, I did it," when police caught up to him within a few hours.

He was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail after appearing by video in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday afternoon. Ellinger was represented by a N.H. Public Defender who offered no argument regarding bail.

Ellinger allegedly walking into the main office of the Bank of New Hampshire and told one of the tellers he had a gun and wanted money. The teller described the man as about 5-feet 8-inches tall with a scruffy beard and wearing a ball cap. He left with more than $1,000.

Police said she was "very distraught" by his alleged actions.

Police searched the immediate area but didn't find anyone matching that description. When the video image of Ellinger leaving the bank reached police, a number of the officers recognized him and later found him walking along Church Street, near the Messer Street intersection.

Prior to police finding him, they said they checked a number of places frequented by homeless and transient people.

Laconia Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation head Capt. Bill Clary said he has been in touch with the FBI — bank robbery is a federal crime — but this appears to be an isolated case and not part of a series of robberies that have occurred in other parts of the state.

He said the FBI was willing to offer any assistance but noted Ellinger's prosecution will be determined the the Belknap County Attorney and the U.S. Attorney.

According to a representative of the N.H. Judiciary call center, Ellinger pleaded guilty to one count of burglary and one count of theft by unauthorized taking in 2002.

He had also failed to appear for a review hearing for a shoplifting conviction in the Laconia Circuit Court on December 23, 2013. Arrested on a bench warrant, he appeared in court by video a few days later and agreed to pay restitution.