Eureka Springs couple survives robbery ordeal

Monday, October 27, 2003

A Eureka Springs area couple escaped serious injury Monday in what was described as a "very menacing" armed robbery and assault on Highway 62 between Avoca and Rogers.

According to the Benton County Sheriff's Office, the couple was lured from their home west of Eureka Springs to a small mall called "Mom's Dream Mall," off of Highway 62 in Benton County. James and Margaret Noury were in the process of selling their 29-foot 5th Wheel camper trailer, and a caller identified as "Kenneth Chandler" said he wanted to buy the camper and told them to meet him at the mall at 8:45 a.m. Monday, which the retired couple did.

James Noury, who will be 80 next week, recalled Tuesday, "Everything looked good, normal, when we arrived. There was a guy washing windows at the mall, and everything looked normal."

Suddenly, a man wearing a ski mask and camouflage clothing pointed a gun at James, and an accomplice pointed a gun at Margaret.

The attackers demanded money, and, James said, Margaret was handcuffed and taken into the mall while one of the gunmen pulled James toward the camper and began to interrogate him about his money and financial status.

"They were very menacing, very agitated and real keyed up. The younger man had a gun to my head and was really giving me a hard time," James said.

"He asked me if I was wearing a wire (recording device) and wanted to know our financial status (and other information)."

Luckily, the couple had only some cash, but no ATM card so the robbers could not force them to take more cash out of their bank account.

James said he was able to calm the man somewhat, and even established a little rapport with him, and the suspect told him, "I've got nothing to lose," when James asked why he was robbing the couple.

Though he had a credit card, James told the gunman that he didn't know his personal identification number to withdraw cash, and his checkbook balance verified that there was a minimal amount of cash available from the bank.

"They threatened us with every other breath, and said if we went to the police they would come back and kill us. They said they knew where we lived," said James, who retired to this area in 1985 after a career as an area manager with Arkansas-Louisiana Gas Co.

Apparently, the gunman holding James believed there were no more valuables the robbers could get, "so they cut their losses" and left with a small amount of cash, James said.

From the moment the gunmen captured them, the Nourys' eyes were taped over, and Mrs. Noury's handcuffs bit into her skin so much that she began to bleed.

James said, "When the bad guys noticed the blood, they took the handcuffs off of her."

James Noury, a soft-spoken man with a quick sense of humor, despite the terror of the attack, said this was the third time in his life that a gun had been pointed at his head.

"I didn't like it any time," he said, laughing.

The former Marine, who flew in the hellish war zones of the South Pacific at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands during World War II, said his experience flying C-47's loaded with aviation fuel or ammunition may have helped him be more steady during his confrontation with the robbers in Benton County.

He said the first time a gun was pointed at his head was by a "Mexican Federale," the heavily armed national police of Mexico. The second time was when a U.S. sentry pointed a rifle at his head when he couldn't think of the password in World War II, and the third time, which he hopes is the last, was on Monday.

"It was a first for my wife, though ---- she's OK now, but she's not at ease yet. We are shaken up, and at the time it was very scary, but all we lost was a little cash. And my pride," the veteran said.

Despite the death threats to the Nourys, they went to a bank in Rogers and immediately called authorities.

As for the threats that the robbers would kill them if they went to the police, James said, "The Carroll County Sheriff's Office swarmed all over my place last night (Monday), and they've been patrolling all the time, shining spotlights and walking around.We really appreciate that."

Sheriff Chuck Medford said that his resources are limited, but the extra patrols will continue "as long as we feel it is necessary. We've had four deputies and a reserve out there, and patrols will continue. On a case-by-case basis, this one has our attention and we're working closely with Benton County investigators."

The case is being investigated by the Benton County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division, which issued a bulletin for the couple's attackers shortly after the crime was discovered.

The suspects were driving a maroon 1990s General Motors model four-door car, according to the report. One of the suspects was wearing camouflage clothing, a ski mask, was in his late 40s, six feet tall and weighing between 186 and 190 pounds. The second suspect was described as five-feet, eight inches, with a thin build. He was believed to be in his late 20s, 140 pounds, wearing khaki pants, beige shirt, beige hat, and was unshaven.

Anyone who might have witnessed anything occurring at Mom's Dream Mall is asked to call Investigators Chris Sparks or Sam Blankenship at (479) 271-1009.

The incident began at about 8:45 a.m. Monday.

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