Jeffrey Ralph Bye's career as a bank robber ended with a whimper five months ago, when a passer-by spotted him fleeing Citibank on Oakdale Road, tossing a shirt and small bag into some bushes as he ran.
He gave up easily when that passing driver took on the role of citizen-cop and detained Bye until Modesto police arrived.
Bye, 58, gave up easily in Stanislaus County Superior Court, too.
He could have demanded a trial but cut the process short Friday morning when he pleaded guilty to three robberies, one attempted robbery and admitted six prior robbery convictions, along with a prior conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The result: 46 years and four months in prison.
The deal: Bye avoided a possible sentence of 275 years to life in prison.
"Basically, this is equivalent to a life sentence, in any event," Judge Hurl Johnson said as he outlined the options.
"I understand that," said Bye, a balding man with gray hair who must serve 85 percent of his time before he can be eligible for parole.
Bye admitted to a string of robbery convictions in Stanislaus, Fresno and Santa Clara counties stretching back to 1969. The judge used those convictions to lengthen his sentence.
Authorities believe Bye robbed Bank of the West on H Street in downtown Modesto three times in May and June. It all ended June 5, when Bye handed a teller a threatening note demanding cash from Citibank, but gave up and ran when the teller became frustrated.
A passing motorist, who was pulling into a parking lot, be- came suspicious when he spotted Bye running from the bank. The motorist gave chase and cornered Bye in the parking lot, ordering him to lie facedown on the ground.
A retired police officer who saw the action joined in, searching Bye for weapons but finding none. The two detained Bye until Modesto police arrived. The police advise people who witness a crime to call 911 and let authorities handle such situations.
Bye, of Modesto, has been in custody since his arrest. He will be older than 95 before he becomes eligible for parole.
"This means Mr. Bye's criminal career is over," Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne said.
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Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2338.