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Fred Atwell Part II: Victim says punishing him is unfair

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Posted at 5:12 PM, Sep 29, 2011
and last updated 2012-03-01 11:47:44-05

Fred Atwell now sits in a Roanoke jail for robbing a woman at gunpoint.  Now the victim, Wanda Sears, is the one trying to help him.

They've known each other several years, back before he made Hampton Roads headlines with whistleblowing that rattled the FBI. Atwell revealed to NewsChannel 3 how the Norfolk FBI office lost control of graphic crime-scene photographs of the Colonial Parkway Murders. The FBI apologized and vowed to re-energize the hunt for a serial killer that ended eight lives. Atwell befriended the families of the victims, but this summer he got charged with a felony for a bogus car raffle he organized on their behalf.  All the stress, he says, left him broke and sick, and in need of money.

“I think he was acting out of absolute desperation,” says Sears.

“I wanted to help him. I wanted to help him. He said I know I am going to get in trouble. I don't know what else to do,” commented Sears.

Sears says she gave Atwell $60 from her wallet. Then he asked her to write him a thousand dollar check. She did, but then talked him out of trying to cash it because she was worried that would get him in more trouble.

“I felt like he was digging himself into a deeper hole. I don't think he was trying to commit a crime. I think he was trying to find money for food,” says Sears.

He gave her the check back and she still has it. Even though she was being robbed, Sears says she told Atwell to put away the gun and sit down while she called a counselor to help him. She said he sobbed and told her how his life had come unraveled. When he left, she called police, but now, believe it or not, she regrets dialing 911.

“In a lot of ways, people will say I am probably nuts for this, but in a lot of ways I wish I hadn't even called the police. I don't want any part of destroying this man's life. I would rather be part of helping him rebuild it,” says Sears.

Just an hour after NewsChannel 3’s Mike Mather spoke with sears, she wrote a letter to Roanoke County prosecutors.

She is asking them to drop the case, or at the very least, reduce the charges.

She says to prosecute Atwell for armed robbery would be unfair.