Suspects named in string of Niles armed robberies

Published 5:08 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2015

CASSOPOLIS — A Niles man with a history of committing violent crimes and his alleged getaway driver girlfriend face the possibility of life in prison for their roles in a string of recent robberies in and around Niles.

Ralph David Fink, II, and April Marie Dawson, 30, of Berrien Springs, were formally charged Wednesday in Cass County District Court with conspiracy to commit armed robbery — a felony carrying a maximum penalty of life in prison.



Both face other charges, but the conspiracy charge is the most serious.

Fink, 39, is accused of using either a knife or a gun during four robberies that occurred in Cass County between Sept. 29 and Oct. 20.

This is not the first time Fink has been involved in a violent crime, according to the Cass County Prosecutor’s Office.

Assistant Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle said during Tuesday’s arraignment that Fink was convicted of robbing six businesses in the Muskingum County, Ohio, area from Oct. 12, 2001, to Nov. 1, 2001. He was sentenced to prison for 11 years and is currently on parole for those offenses.



Fink, who said he has been living on US-12 in Niles since October of 2013, was apprehended after allegedly robbing the Sunrise Party Store on Huntley Road in Howard Township Tuesday evening. He is accused of robbing the same store Sept. 29.

After spotting the possible suspect vehicle, a Cass County detective witnessed the defendant enter the store and exit minutes later wearing a mask. When confronted by police, Fink fled but was captured on foot a short time later.

Police also apprehended Dawson, who admitted to police that she was going to drive the vehicle to another location and pick up Fink seven minutes later.

Vohwinkle said Dawson also told police that she knew Fink intended to rob the store.

The Cass County Prosecutor’s Office is also charging Fink with violent offense-fourth felony, or “VO-4,” which means he would get a minimum of 25 years in prison if convicted.

Judge Stacy Rentfrow set Fink’s bond at $300,000 cash.

Dawson’s bond was set at $100,000 cash or surety.

They are scheduled to appear in court Oct. 29 for a preliminary exam conference and Nov. 4 for a preliminary examination.

Vohwinkle said Fink is allegedly responsible for at least six robberies in the area, some of which were committed in Berrien County.