Christopher French, a 36-year-old man charged with the gunpoint robbery of Adam's Bakery, was described by police Monday as a "serial robber" released from prison two months ago after serving seven years on robbery charges.
French, of Shelton, was charged with first-degree robbery in connection with the April 29 holdup at the bakery, 1525 Black Rock Turnpike. A nearby security camera recorded the suspect committing the crime, police said.
On Friday night, the Sahara Tanning Salon, 173 Post Road, was also held up by an armed robber who police believe was French, and a warrant for his arrest in connection with the incident is pending, police said.
Police Chief Gary MacNamara said Monday that French also may have robbed businesses in Bridgeport in the days before and after the two Fairfield incidents.
Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Earl Richards later Monday ordered French held in lieu of $500,000 bond on charges of first-degree robbery and fifth-degree larceny and continued the case for two weeks. Police also are preparing to serve French with arrest warrants for crimes in Fairfield, Stratford and Bridgeport.
"This town has seen the results of a serial robbery before," MacNamara said, referring to the 2005 deaths of jewelers Kim and Tim Donnelly, killed during an armed robbery at their downtown store by Christopher DeMeo, who was implicated in several earlier heists. "So we are extremely grateful we were able to take him into custody" before the latest incidents escalated, the chief said.
MacNamara said French was appeared to be growing more confident with each incident, pointing to the fact that in tanning salon robbery, the robber "took more control of the employee" and put her in a back room. It's unclear how much money the robber took in that heist, police said.
In both Fairfield incidents, police said the robber displayed a black-and-silver handgun.
The gun, MacNamara said, "brings a level of unpredictability" to such crimes.
After learning of the Bridgeport incidents, he said, Fairfield police began working with police from both Bridgeport and Stratford to identify a suspect.
In each case, the suspect appears to have targeted businesses where merchants were alone at work.
On Saturday morning, a Bridgeport florist was robbed, with an unknown amount of cash taken, according to Fairfield police. Bridgeport police, however, had no details on that incident.
Detective Sgt. Tony Granata called French's arrest the result of "collaborative work between police" in Fairfield, Bridgeport and Stratford, assisted by solid witness descriptions. Granata said the arrest does not end the police investigation into recent area robberies.
So far, French has only been charged in connection with the robbery of the bakery, but MacNamara confirmed that a warrant is pending for the salon robbery. He said also expects that French will be charged with crimes by other departments. After Fairfield took French into custody in Trumbull, he was also interviewed by the Bridgeport and Stratford police and, according to police, admitted to several robberies throughout the region.
In 2005, French pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree robbery and one count of attempted second-degree robbery. In 2004, he was convicted of third-degree burglary and larceny in Derby and sentenced to three years in prison, and received a two year suspended sentence in connection with his conviction of second-degree robbery in New Haven. In 2001, he was convicted of one count of third-degree burglary and violation of probation. Between 1996 and 1997, he was found guilty of three counts of issuing bad checks, and served a 90-day prison term.