Partners in Crime

This new Bonnie and Clyde robbed $500,000 from a half-dozen banks, then lived the highlife on the lam.

By Max Alexander from Reader's Digest | August 2004

Tire theft escalated to more daring crimes during the late ’80s, when the couple separated, in part because of what Laurie says was Craig’s repeated infidelity. He seemed to enjoy taunting her, at one point frolicking in the hot tub of her apartment complex with another woman. While she worked full-time as a bank teller to support her kids, her estranged husband was robbing banks to support his taste for the good life. Laurie once spotted him driving a silver Porsche Carrera.

The couple divorced in 1990, and later that year the FBI caught up with Craig in Honolulu, where he’d relocated with a girlfriend. Arrested and convicted of robbing a Las Vegas bank in April of that year, Craig served five years in Arizona’s Black Canyon federal penitentiary. There he read The Wall Street Journal every day and dreamed of making a fast buck as a day trader when he got out.

After his 1996 release, during a visit with his kids, he told Laurie’s second husband, John Pulzato, that robbery was like a drug—and it was his drug of choice. "There is no better high," Craig said, describing how he would sit in his car before a heist and pump himself up, like an athlete getting ready for the big game.

Clearly, he hadn’t put crime behind him, which became evident soon enough. On August 12, 1997, investigators say, Craig held up a Scottsdale Norwest Bank. That same day, Laurie was working as a teller at a Norwest branch in nearby Mesa. She believes his choice of banks was no coincidence.

That afternoon, local cops came close to nabbing their man during a spectacular getaway that included a diversionary car fire and a cat-and-mouse chase through a luxury shopping mall, with Craig buying—and changing—clothes several times. In the end, the cops found Craig’s car, strewn with wads of cash and a bank money-tracking device—but no Craig. A few weeks later, the bank robber walked into a restaurant in Farmington, New Mexico, and met Nova.

She was a dark-haired beauty from the tiny rural town of Boone, Colorado. Her steelworker dad and schoolteacher mom were strict Christian fundamentalists, and Nova showed little sign of straying from the flock. A member of the National Honor Society as well as the Christian Student Fellowship in high school, she went on to earn a premed degree from Morningside College in Iowa. "She was very intelligent," says her college roommate, Tina Laskie. Laskie says Nova attended church on campus, but also had a bit of a wild side. "She wasn’t afraid to get dirty, and she didn’t let anybody push her around."

But why did she throw it all away for a life of crime? Family members can offer little more than sighs of disbelief. Was it true love? Perhaps, but people who know Craig believe Nova was swept up by his forceful personality. "He could sell ice to Eskimos," says John Pulzato.

When she met Craig, Nova was helping her brother Gerald sell vacuum-cleaning supplies in New Mexico. Although Craig was 12 years older, she once said she saw something in him that matched something in her. For his part, Craig has said he had never met any woman like her.

Craig had a reputation as a ladies’ man, but as far as cops knew, he had always kept his love life and his crime life separate. Yet Nova became Craig’s perfect partner in love—and crime.

Their spree began on Halloween 1997 when cops say Craig and Nova, along with an accomplice still at large, held up a Bank of the Southwest branch in Durango, Colorado—cleaning the vault out of $60,000. They avoided big cities, hitting one-horse towns like Aztec, New Mexico. Nova would case a bank by going in for a money order, then studying the layout. And Craig figured out you could dunk stolen loot in a bucket of water (which Nova kept in the getaway car) to disable tracking devices. "I consider Craig one of the more intelligent bank robbers," says Tom Van Meter, a robbery detective with the Scottsdale Police Department.

But he was an even better fugitive. Using a host of fake names, bogus IDs and unstoppable charm, Craig and Nova managed to hide in plain sight—from the slopes of Mt. Bachelor to the beaches of Belize. The money dwindled quickly, especially given Craig’s appreciation for sharp clothes, watches and premium liquor. To fund their "permanent vacation," the pair continued the holdups. Thanks to several appearances on "America’s Most Wanted," Craig and Nova sightings started flowing in, and FBI agents say they came close to them several times—just not quite close enough.

Then the cops got a break. On March 8, 1999, about two weeks after the Bend heist, Nova turned herself in—possibly following a fight with Craig. "I think I’m wanted," she told a Baptist minister, who drove her to an FBI office in Denver. During a four-hour interview with agents, she spilled the story of their life on the lam. Based on the information she gave them about Craig, all charges against her were eventually dropped, and she was allowed to leave.

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