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Fred Atwell to plead guilty to armed robbery next week

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Posted at 4:16 PM, Dec 17, 2011
and last updated 2012-03-01 11:47:43-05

Prosecutors in Roanoke County say the man who exposed a big FBI mistake in the Colonial Parkway Murder investigation will plead guilty to armed robbery.

Fred Atwell is the whistleblower who uncovered how the FBI lost control of serial-murder evidence photographs, a revelation so embarrassing agents promised they'd put the cold case back on the front burner. Atwell had fallen on hard times. He ended up in Roanoke and robbed a financial planner he's known for years.

“Totally a desperate person; in fact, I wanted to help him. He seemed like he was in a desperate situation, and really needing a friend,” says Wanda Sears, the woman he is accused of robbing.

Sears said she didn't want Atwell prosecuted, and repeated that to the prosecutors. But even so, Roanoke County prosecutors say Atwell is expected to plead guilty to armed robbery next week.

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

The guilty plea means prosecutors in York County can take Atwell to court on felony fraud charges.

In the summer, Atwell admitted to NewsChannel 3 that he was trying to organize a car raffle to benefit the families who lost loved ones to the Parkway serial killer. But when Atwell couldn't get the cars, he admitted he faked the raffle.

A trial date for that case has not been set.