Soldier among trio held in robbery

A Fort Lewis soldier who returned to Washington about a month ago after serving part of a deployment in Iraq is one of three men accused in a home invasion robbery at gunpoint at a Ridgemont Court Southeast residence early Sunday morning, court papers state.

Two of the three suspects were armed with shotguns and a third had a pistol when they knocked on a door at a home in the 4700 block of Ridgemont Court in Thurston County just before 4 a.m.

Once inside, the suspects, who wore masks or scarves, ordered the seven or so occupants at gunpoint to lie on the floor. The suspects later forced the victims into a central location in a dining room.

The robbery was described in court papers as a “hostile takeover of the residence.”

Thurston County Sheriff’s Lt. Chris Mealy said the suspects took electronics, including an iPod, laptop computers and a television. They also took cash from the victims, Mealy said.

Deputies were dispatched to the home on a report of a robbery in progress. Upon arrival, the suspects ran away. Deputies found a Ford Expedition in the driveway that was partially loaded with items stolen from the home.

Deputies set up a perimeter around the neighborhood, and used a K9 unit to track the suspects. One of the suspects, John L. Burns, 19, was tracked by one of the sheriff’s dogs and found “cold and wet” in a ditch on Mullen Road, about a quarter-mile from the victims’ residence.

About 30 minutes later, a second suspect, Jessup Tillmon, called 911, identifying himself as a suspect in the home invasion robbery. Tillmon volunteered to turn himself in. Deputies located and arrested Tillmon, and he confessed to committing the robbery, according to court papers. He declined to talk further with detectives outside the presence of an attorney.

Tillmon, 19, is identified in court papers as an Army solider from Fort Lewis who resides in Lakewood. “Jessup was deployed to Iraq in March 2009, but returned about a month or so due to mental health problems while serving in Iraq,” court papers state. Tillmon has a wife and child and no prior criminal convictions, court papers state.

The third suspect, Deshone Verell Herbin, 30, was located at his parents’ Tumwater residence Sunday afternoon. When he was placed under arrest, Herbin “loudly and adamantly denied any involvement in the case, stating that he had never left his residence and denied he was ever with Burns or Tillmon.”

Herbin has at least two prior felony convictionsin North Carolina. One, in 2002, is for a robbery while armed with a dangerous weapon and second- degree kidnapping. Another 1998 conviction is for breaking and entering.

Herbin’s father told court officials that his son “suffers from mental health disorders, including bipolar as well as borderline personality disorder.”

Detectives learned that Tillmon had been at the Ridgemont Court residence about a week before the robbery to play video games after being invited by someone who lives there. Thurston County Sheriff’s Det. Steve Hamilton said about five of the victims live at the Ridgemont Court residence and they are mostly young professionals – a car salesman, a business owner, and a banker. Another is a student, Hamilton said.

Bail was set for all three suspects during a court hearing Monday before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor. Tabor ordered all three suspects held on suspicion of their first-degree robbery, kidnapping and burglary charges. Burns’ bail was set at $75,000. Tillmon’s bail is set at $50,000 and Herbin’s bail is set at $100,000.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465