The string of recent armed robberies since August plagued small business throughout Sonoma County — candy, ice cream, yogurt and cupcake shops, tanning and nail salons, and beauty supply stores.
Descriptions of the robber echoed a theme: a white man in a baseball cap, shorts and sunglasses with a black handgun. As the investigations developed, another distinct detail arose. The robber, in at least two cases, appeared to be driving an avocado green, 1980s Ford Festiva.
The robberies, which continued through September and included four since Friday, were quick but not always successful, including at a Santa Rosa ice cream shop where the clerk shut the cash drawer on the man’s hand and he left having only gotten an ice cream cone, which he abandoned before fleeing.
Hours before dawn Tuesday, a multi-agency law enforcement effort including the Sonoma County sheriff’s SWAT team surrounded a Rohnert Park home and arrested 51-year-old William Drew Hodges.
Hodges was taken into custody on one case — Sunday afternoon’s armed robbery of a Rohnert Park nail salon.
In subsequent interviews after his arrest Hodges admitted to seven local robberies using a black BB gun, including the nail salon, said Rohnert Park police Commander Aaron Johnson. Now detectives from Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Cotati and San Rafael police and the Sheriff’s Office suspect the man in as many as seven other recent armed robberies in their jurisdictions, including at least three in Petaluma: See’s Candies, Yogurt Land and Palm Beach Tan, which was robbed Friday afternoon.
The man also was wanted by the law for ditching parole on a 2010 conviction of a robbery and assault, according to Rohnert Park police. That case stemmed from a Petaluma Safeway robbery and assault involving throwing a bag of groceries at a security employee who tried to stop him, according to court documents.
Tuesday afternoon, two Santa Rosa robbery cases were filed against Hodges: the east side Baskin‑Robbins attempted armed robbery in August and Monday’s robbery of the Sally Beauty store on Santa Rosa Avenue.
The evidence leading to Hodges’ arrest came together Sunday, after the nail salon caper in the Maurice Avenue shopping center, Johnson said.
Rohnert Park detectives distributed surveillance camera pictures to area law enforcement and heard from San Rafael detectives. They were investigating an attempted robbery Friday of a Terra Linda hair salon and had identified the Rohnert Park man as a suspect who could be driving the distinct, compact green car.
A review of surveillance video from the nail salon at the time of the robbery showed such a car parked nearby, Johnson said. Monday night, officers found it parked outside an Allan Avenue home.
With search and arrest warrants, the teams of officers converged on the home after 12:30 a.m. and arrested Hodges. Johnson said the SWAT team was involved because the suspect was believed to have a gun.
A search turned up a black BB gun in his car, which looked real. Clothing found in the car and house appeared to match surveillance images taken from multiple businesses of the robber’s wardrobe, Johnson said.
Hodges remained in the Sonoma County Jail Tuesday afternoon without bail due to the parole violation, according to jail records.
You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter@rossmannreport.