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'Granddad Bandit's' wife describes quiet life
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BATON ROUGE, La. - Patsy Mara doesn't doubt the man the FBI calls the "Granddad Bandit," suspected in a string of bank robberies across the country, is her husband. The 61-year-old schoolteacher, however, still has trouble reconciling the image of a holdup man who snatched money from more than two dozen banks with the gentle, loving husband she married just a year ago.

Michael Mara, 52, was arrested Wednesday after police and FBI agents acting on a tip surrounded their modest home in Baton Rouge. He surrendered peacefully after a nearly six-hour standoff.

"Did my husband who I was married to do that? Of course not. Did Michael Mara, the guy who walked out this door with police do it? Yes," Patsy Mara said in an interview with The Associated Press, sitting on her couch in the home she shared with the man she thought once worked as a paramedic and most recently for FEMA on disaster recovery.

Michael Mara wore his EMS uniform, with the crisp white shirt and badge of a paramedic, on the couple's wedding day in June 2009. Now Patsy isn't sure if he ever was an emergency worker, or if he helped on the Sept. 11 cleanup as he claimed.

She doesn't doubt, though, that it's him in the surveillance photos the FBI says show him robbing banks around the country.

The Michael Mara she knew was smart and kindhearted, loved trips to New Orleans' French Quarter and liked bologna sandwiches and macaroni-and-cheese dinners.

She said she knows nothing about the crimes he's accused of, beyond what she's now seen in TV newscasts.

Michael Mara is suspected of robbing 25 banks in 13 states, dating to a December 2008 holdup of SunTrust Bank in downtown Richmond, Va., authorities said.

According to court documents, the FBI received a tip from someone who identified Michael Mara as the robber and gave authorities photographs to match to bank surveillance videos.

In the robberies, the suspect waited patiently in line and handed the teller a note demanding a specific amount of money. Sometimes, he made gestures indicating he had a weapon, although agents said there was no indication he ever used one.

The crimes began only months after Patsy and Michael met in a shelter set up for evacuees of Hurricane Gustav. Patsy Mara, who had been married twice before, said Michael showed up in a paramedic's uniform as she was working at the shelter.

Shortly after they married, she said her husband claimed to get a job for FEMA, working on disaster recovery. He traveled constantly, up to four or five weeks at a time, but she said he described trips to places that made sense for work, sites of floods or other disasters. He wore the black shirt and khaki uniform of a FEMA employee, and when he returned, he brought photos from his travels, giving credibility to the stories.

Court documents say Mara worked for a vehicle transportation company, giving him the ability to easily travel to other states. Earlier this year, Mara rented a car for 52 days and logged 9,669 miles, an affidavit says. During that time, three robberies in three different states were connected to the "Granddad Bandit."

"If he was an actor, he would have gotten an Academy Award for his performance," Patsy Mara said.

She never saw gobs of cash, and the FBI hasn't said how much money the bandit was able to grab, but Patsy Mara said her husband kept a locked file cabinet that the FBI searched for evidence.

FBI agents said the nickname "Granddad Bandit" was devised to help law enforcement and the public easily identify the suspect. However, to Patsy Mara's grandchildren, Michael Mara was called "Grandpa Mike."

Michael Mara is scheduled to make his initial court appearance in Baton Rouge on Friday. It was unclear if he had yet hired an attorney. If convicted of the Virginia bank robbery for which he was arrested, he faces 20 years in prison.

Federal officials refused to provide details of Michael Mara's background, whether he had a criminal record, where he was born or where he grew up. Patsy Mara knows the stories he told her, about an estranged daughter and a granddaughter who gave him a small brown teddy bear five years ago that he named Fuzzy and took on trips with him.

Now, she's only sure of a few things, that her husband treated her well, that her family loved him and that she had a happy life with him. As she described him with tears in her eyes, Patsy Mara sat in a home filled with family photos that show Michael Mara with her children and grandchildren.

She also knows that during Wednesday's standoff he said he worried about her. Patsy Mara sat in a car only a few houses away from home, getting updates from officials as they negotiated with her husband to give himself up.

"When he was talking to people yesterday, his concern was for me. His concern was that I'm going to be angry. I'm not angry. I'm sad," she said. "I cannot be angry and throw him in the garbage."

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