SNOW HILL – A Delaware man arrested in Berlin in April after holding up another man at gunpoint before fleeing pleaded guilty this week in Worcester County Circuit Court to an amended armed robbery charge and was sentenced to eight years in jail.
Around 3 p.m. on April 12, Berlin police responded to the Union Station Car Wash on Old Ocean City Blvd. for a reported armed robbery that had just occurred. The victim told police the unidentified suspect held a handgun under his sweatshirt and threatened to shoot the man if he didn’t turn over his wallet and money. The victim complied with the robber’s demands.
At the time, the victim described the suspect as a light-skinned black man in his mid 20s with a goatee, around 5’7” tall with a medium build. The suspect was wearing a white sweatshirt and a dark-colored ball cap at the time of the robbery. The suspect fled the scene in a small, white SUV with unknown Delaware tags. Perhaps the most useful bit of information provided by the witness related to the getaway vehicle, described as similar to a Kia Sorento.
Four days later, Berlin police were tipped off about a possible sighting of the suspect’s vehicle used in the armed robbery. Berlin police officers responded to the area identified by the witness and observed a male suspect matching the description provided by the armed robbery victim four days earlier. When police approached the suspect, later identified as Aaron T. Purnell, 23, of Felton, Del., he fled on foot. He was apprehended a short time later after a brief chase. A background check revealed Purnell was also wanted as a fugitive from justice in Delaware.
A search of Purnell’s vehicle revealed marijuana in the center console. During processing, the armed robbery victim was contacted and brought to the scene to identify Purnell from a prepared photo line-up. The victim identified Purnell as his assailant. Purnell was charged with armed robbery, first- and second-degree assault, the use of a handgun in a violent crime, possession of marijuana and the fugitive warrant from Delaware.
At the beginning of the trial this week, Circuit Court Judge Thomas C. Groton III, granted a motion to amend the armed robbery charge to simple robbery by delineation. Purnell then pleaded guilty to the amended charge as was sentenced to eight years in jail. The start of the sentence reverted back to April 16 when Purnell was taken into custody. The status of Purnell’s case in neighboring Delaware is not known.