No More Mr. Nice Guy

updated 09/16/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/16/1991 01:00AM

LON PERRY'S ONE-MAN CRIME WAVE ended as it had begun, quietly. Late last month the 49-year-old Houston native turned himself in. giving police a nine-hour confession of his life as the notorious "Gentleman Bandit." In two years, he robbed 98 people, mostly male businessmen, at hotels and motels in Texas and Louisiana. Then, last June, police arrested Michael Harvey, 44, a traveling salesman from Cibolo, Texas, and accused him of being the Gentleman Bandit. Perry's conscience started gnawing at him. Robbery was one thing, said the soft-spoken, churchgoing grandfather, but "under no circumstances would I let Mr. Harvey go to prison for something I did."

Perry may plead guilty in exchange for a 35-year prison sentence, with eligibility for parole in eight years and nine months. In his confession, he talked about feeling suicidal after he was laid off from his job as a computer analyst in 1989. Perry said he was left "an emotional cripple, severely depressed and possessing little self-worth. Here I was nearly 50 years of age, back taxes owed to the IRS, a son at a college that I really couldn't afford..."

So he took a gun, which he insists was broken, and started holding up people. Police reports portrayed the bandit as unfailingly courteous, even promising to pay back his victims. Perry kept their business cards, meticulously noting the times, amounts and locations of his heists. "Most netted him $20 to $30," says his lawyer Rick Brass. "I think his biggest take was $1,022." Family and friends, even his wife of 26 years, Judy, a bank secretary, never suspected how Perry spent his nights. He told her he had found a night-shift job and would be unreachable by phone.

As it turns out, the bandit's spree may not have been entirely gentlemanly. Police now report that, in 1989, Perry told a 31-year-old woman to remove her clothes—apparently to keep her from following him—and then fondled her. If that turns out to be true, the nickname Gentleman Bandit can be retired.

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