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Mike Mather speaks exclusively to Fred Atwell, who now sits behind bars

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Posted at 5:04 PM, Sep 27, 2011
and last updated 2012-03-01 11:47:44-05

The whistleblower whose revelations embarrassed the FBI and forced agents to renew the stalled hunt for a serial killer, is a now a maximum-security inmate at the Roanoke County Jail. He's fallen on hard times, and that could lead to prison time.

“When you get hungry and tired, you do what you have to do to live,” said Atwell.

When asked about what happened at the financial planner’s office where he robbed a woman he knew, he initially stated that he could not talk about it. Thirty minutes into the interview, he finally admitted what happened.

He said desperation led him to a Roanoke office park, where he robbed a woman he's known for years.

He stated that he knew as soon as he walked out of the office that she was going to call someone.

“Yes. I knew that, because I wanted help. The pressure was on,” says Atwell.

Atwell says the years of butting heads with the FBI and the State police have worn him down. When none of them would listen, he showed NewsChannel 3 how someone leaked sensitive crime-scene photos from the Colonial Parkway murders. Because of Atwell, the FBI investigated the leak and re-investigated the killings. That's given hope to the victims' families. To them, Atwell was a hero. But the authorities considered him an attention-grabbing suspect in the very cases he helped re-open.

To help raise reward money for the families, he organized a charity raffle. But it blew up in his face. He's facing a felony for that. Atwell also says that police are also after him for something else--accusing him of trying to trade a crime tip for cash.

He denies it all, but says the ordeal left him broke, sick and frustrated. He says he started driving and somehow ended in Roanoke, suicidal.

“I made every effort to call for help, couldn't get it. So what can I say? I had to eat. I didn't want to go back to the hospital. My blood pressure was really high. I had a lot of stress on me and now I am in here,” stated Atwell.

He's awaiting trial for turning a conversation with a longtime friend into an armed robbery.

“I think he was acting out of absolute desperation,” said the woman he robbed.

And like so many parts of this twisting and odd saga, this part is also unbelievable. The woman he controlled with his gun, the woman he robbed, well, she says Atwell deserves sympathy, and not prison.

Although she is aware that he could face 20 years in prison for what he did, she thinks it would be a travesty if he received that amount of time.

She told Investigator Mike Mather what she is planning to do that could completely derail this robbery case against him.

Tune in for part two of this bizarre story tomorrow night at 11.