Murder convict accused in party store robbery

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man accused of robbing a Grand Rapids party store was recently released from prison, where he has been for more than 15 years after killing a man.

Paul White was officially charged Tuesday with robbing the Butterworth Party Store.

Surveillance video from the Monday afternoon robbery shows it took only about a minute for White to jump the counter at the store, manhandle two men and threaten them with the gun — which they thought was real but police said Tuesday was not — and make off with about $2,000 in cash and some cigarettes.

A surveillance image from an armed robbery at Butterworth Party Store. (April 28, 2014)
(A surveillance image from an armed robbery at Butterworth Party Store. April 28, 2014)

White was arrested after one of those victims followed him and gave officers identifying information. Police then surrounded the house on Bridge Street NW in which White was hiding and he surrendered without a fight.

Police also suspect White of some other recent robberies.

“He’s a real articulate, smart guy. It’s a sad situation,” Grand Rapids Police Department Lt. Pat Merrill said Tuesday.

White was released from a state prison on parole in September 2013. He was convicted of second-degree murder after killing a man in 1996 during an argument on a Detroit street when he was still a teen.

While in prison, White met a female corrections officer who he eventually married.

“It was a woman that he met in prison and set him up in the Grand Rapids area, so she was really the one who placed him here,” Merrill said.

They have since split and she left the state, but White stayed in Grand Rapids.

Police say he had a couple of jobs and was participating in a prisoner re-entry program.

“It’s a very hard transition, especially for someone like this guy who has already spent 18 years in prison. Now he’s going to transition back out into life again. His last experience is at 19 years old and now he’s got to come back out into the world. That is a hard transition for folks to make,” Merrill said. “A couple of our folks were working real hard with him. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work.”

After the robbery, White is looking at spending the rest of his life in prison.

In spite of cases like White’s, state prison officials say working with parolees on the outside has worked. Before the re-entry program was instituted, 43% of former inmates went back to prison. That figure has been cut to 29%.

Watch the surveillance video from the robbery via YouTube:

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