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Bank Robber Receives Two Life Sentences

U.S. Attorney’s Office March 16, 2009
  • Southern District of Iowa (515) 473-9300

DES MOINES, IA—On March 16, 2009, Michael Rowan Knutson, 42, of Mason City, was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for armed bank robbery and the use of a firearm during a crime of violence, announced U.S. Attorney Matthew G. Whitaker. Sentence was imposed by Chief District Judge Robert W. Pratt.

Knutson, along with James Stenger, was convicted of the armed bank robbery of the First Bank in the Valley Junction area of West Des Moines. The robbery occurred on May 16, 2007, when Knutson and Stenger robbed the bank at gun point in a “takeover” style robbery. Knutson brandished a black powder revolver, and Stenger brandished a handgun. Knutson and Stenger were convicted at separate trials in the summer of 2008. The evidence at trial also established Knutson’s involvement in two other bank robberies in Mason City, each of which were committed by a lone gunman with a black powder revolver. These included the robbery of the U.S. Bank in Mason City on April 10, 2007, and the Mercy-Lehigh City Credit Union on July 14, 2007. A significant lead in the investigation of these robberies occurred when Des Moines Police Officers encountered Knutson, Stenger, and two others, in possession of a black powder revolver similar to the one used in the series of bank robberies.

Knutson was subject to a mandatory life sentence under the federal “three strikes” law, because he had at least two prior crimes of violence. At sentencing, evidence was presented that Knutson was convicted of robbery in Polk County, Iowa, often involving the use of a firearm, on three separate occasions (1984, 1990, and 2000).

This case was investigated by the Mason City Police Department, the Des Moines Police Department, the West Des Moines Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Des Moines Resident Agency.

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