Virginia Kay, 38, was always somewhere else. The pudgy divorcee wasn't outside the Anchor Savings bank in Olympia that day a year ago this month. She wasn't lurking behind a tree, eyes peeled for the cops. She didn't see four girls—including her 14-year-old daughter—outfitted in hip-hop bandannas and baggy pants, dash out of the bank, ditch their stolen guns by a tree, and hand her a bag with $1,098 to finance their pipe-dream dance club in Mexico. She and the money didn't get on a bus back to Aberdeen, leaving the girls to beg on the streets of Olympia for their own bus fare.
No, she wasn't street mom and ringleader of the all-white, all-girl, all-public transit Aberdeen holdup team, busing to and from Olympia on July 31, 1998, and robbing a bank precisely in the gun-waving, take-over style of the Los Angeles black-girl gang portrayed in the 1996 movie Set It Off.
"I wasn't even in town that day," Kay said under oath last year.
But less than a year into her 10-year term riding a bunk bed at the women's prison in Purdy, the onetime teen-dance-hall operator seems to have forgotten the script of her own morality play.
She was in Olympia that day after all, she blurted on television the other night.
The girl robbers "did this on their own, I was there to stop it, and I got mixed up in it," Kay explained recently to a Fox Files reporter.
It was the first time Kay has blown her lines since getting caught for using the LA bank-heist movie to mold her daughter, two street kids, and a young woman friend into what police called one of the most professional robbery teams they've seen (see "Set It Off 2," SW, 9/24/98).
Though she did confess in a plea bargain—saying, in essence, I'll plead guilty but I wasn't there—Kay returned to the stand during her daughter's sentencing and weirdly pleaded her Fifth Amendment rights. Informed a convicted person had no claim against self-incrimination, Kay then repeated her earlier defense that she was at Lake Quinault the day of the robbery.
Her inexplicable reluctance to help resulted in unmitigated three-year sentences for the girls: daughter Tiffany Sullivan, 14, and Marcia Thomas and Patty Rosander, both 15.
If her performance hadn't been mystifying enough, Kay on TV contradicted her contradictions, insisting she'd do anything for those great girls.
"I will not stop loving them just because they robbed a bank," she said amid sniffles.
"She was the manipulator," said Russ Gies, the veteran Olympia police detective who helped break the case. "She was the planner, she was the one who had them watch the movie dozens of times."
"I'm not guilty of masterminding nothing," moaned a tearful Virginia Kay, eligible for parole in 2004.
"Don't let the tears fool you," said Gies. "That's Miss Virginia, being Miss Virginia—again."