1. Archive

10 years later, suspect arrested

Just before noon on March 5, 1984, Kathie Wall picked up a brown paper bag and walked out of Southeast Bank in Seminole.

Wall, an accounts supervisor and mother of two, told fellow workers she was taking an early lunch.

No one ever heard from Kathie Wall again.

Until Wednesday.

The FBI caught up with her in South Padre Island, Texas.

For 10 years, Kathie Wall has been Kathie Coons, a pleasant middle-aged woman with "a nice family." She was married to a university professor, and they had a young son.

Kathie worked as a waitress, most recently at an Italian restaurant where she served up house favorites like Marco Polo chicken and stuffed clams.

She also liked to make small talk with neighbors.

"She's a friendly lady," said Gilbert Geers, who lives next door. "She's always pleasant and nice."

According to the FBI, she's also a fugitive.

Wall, 45, was arrested and charged with fraud and embezzlement.

"She had another life here," said FBI Agent Andy Guzman in nearby Corpus Christi. "And people here didn't know about her former life."

Missing person

Richard Wall called Pinellas County sheriff's deputies when his wife didn't make it home.

The couple, who had been married 17 years, lived in a house at 13999 86th Ave. N in Seminole. They had two children, 6 and 14.

Sheriffs spokeswoman Mar-ianne Pasha said deputies discovered that Kathie Wall had left Southeast Bank about 11 a.m.

But as the investigation progressed, it became clear that Kathie Wall never meant to return.

The brown paper bag she carried on March 5, 1984, probably had clothing in it, Pasha said. The closet at home seemed to be missing several hangars of clothes, but no toiletries were missing.

Ruling out foul play, deputies determined that Kathie Wall had charged $500 at J.C. Penney around the time of her disappearance, buying toiletry items and some clothes, Pasha said.

"The gist you get from reading the reports," Pasha said, "is she was trying to leave a troubled marriage in her mind."

The FBI says she was trying to leave a lot more.

Missing money

On the day she disappeared, Southeast Bank had sent auditors to review records of the branch where she worked at 7700 Seminole Blvd., said FBI Agent Larry Curtin in Tampa.

The auditors discovered that money was missing from accounts she oversaw as a supervisor in the Certificate of Deposit Control Department, Curtin said.

In September 1985, records show, a federal grand jury in Tampa indicted Wall on four counts of embezzlement. The indictment, unsealed after her arrest Wednesday, charged her with four counts of embezzlement and accused her of taking a total of $12,815.

Curtin would say only that a tip led agents to Wall in South Padre Island. The FBI and U.S. marshals were waiting for her at her apartment about 3 p.m. Wednesday when Wall drove up with her husband.

"We walked over and asked who she was. We asked if she was Kathie Wall," said Deputy Marshal Ramiro Suarez. "She told us that Wall was her maiden name, and we arrested her."

She did not resist the agents, who booked her into Nueces County Jail in Corpus Christi. Her husband, Roy Coons, called the Italian Island restaurant to say that his wife would not be in Wednesday.

Worked as waitress

Robert Tagliaferro, who owns the Italian Island restaurant, said the woman he knows as Kathie Coons has worked for him nearly two years. She had come recommended by mutual friends, who had employed her as a waitress.

Three nights a week, she waited tables. She always worked nights, her boss said, because she spent days taking care of her 5-year-old son, Christopher.

"I didn't know much about her personal life. I knew she was married to a professor and they had the one boy," Tagliaferro said.

Roy Coons, an instructor at the National Spill Control School at the Corpus Christi campus of Texas A&M University, could not be reached for comment Thursday, hours after he bailed his wife out of jail.

The Coonses have been married at least six years, said the school's executive director, Steven Barnes. He did not know how the couple met, but he said Kathie Coons has been a waitress at several restaurants.

"All I know is she apparently has family in New Jersey," Barnes said. "I've never heard either of them mention Florida."

Back in Seminole, the husband Kathie Coons left behind, Richard Wall, already has been notified of his ex-wife's arrest. But he learned years ago to live without her, said his new wife, Barbara.

"He filed for a divorce," she said. "He claimed desertion."

Neither have the Geerses, who rent an apartment in the complex where the Coonses have lived for about 1{ years.

"We met them last winter when we were down here," said Gilbert Geers. "I think they're a fine couple."