A prosecutor revealed evidence in court Tuesday linking a 38-year-old Windham man to the armed robbery of a Westbrook gas station and indicated the man also could be connected to more holdups among a string of robberies that have plagued southern Maine business owners in recent weeks.

Travis Card made his first court appearance and was ordered held in lieu of $25,000 cash bail Tuesday by Justice Thomas Warren after police charged him with the April 6 robbery of the Gulf Mart gas station on Bridgton Road in Westbrook.

While Card is charged with a single count, police continue to investigate him in connection with more than a dozen other robberies in southern Maine since March 20 that shared characteristics with the Gulf Mart crime. Because of the ongoing work, key documents that would shed light on how investigators zeroed in on Card have been kept from public view.

But some of those details leaked out in court Tuesday after Card’s attorney, Heather Gonzales, argued that police did not have enough probable cause to charge Card with the one robbery. Gonzales said a witness at the Gulf Mart described the perpetrator as having dark eyes and prominent eyebrows, and her client has neither facial feature.

TRUCK, SNEAKER YIELD CLUES

In response, Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck described some of the evidence against Card gathered by police so far. After the Gulf Mart robbery, a witness reported seeing a dark-colored truck bearing a distinctive wavelike logo leave the area. Video captured near the scene of a subsequent robbery in Old Orchard Beach showed a similar vehicle.

Later, when police had honed in on Card and began conducting surveillance on him, they noted he was driving a truck that matched the description given by the witness and captured in the video.

When police arrested Card Friday, he was driving a work truck owned by his employer at the time, Watermatic, a South Portland irrigation company. The truck and its GPS system were specified in court papers as targets of the search, which has such a logo.

Another key piece of evidence connecting Card to the Gulf Mart robbery came from Card’s former probation officer, Sahrbeck said. In a different video released to the public, the Gulf Mart robber can be heard clearly demanding cash.

“Pop the register, please,” he said.

Police circulated the video and asked the public to listen to the voice.

Card, who has a criminal record that includes burglary and theft, had been required to report to a probation officer in the past, and that probation officer told police she recognized Card’s voice.

Then there was the sneaker.

The FBI released a video March 31 showing the suspect in the first robbery, of the Riverton Gas Station in Portland on March 20, wearing black sneakers with white soles.

In court, Sahrbeck said someone called police April 2, a couple of days after the video was distributed to the public, to report that a similar shoe was discarded on Methodist Road in Westbrook. Police tested it for DNA.

“The DNA came back as Card,” Sahrbeck said.

JUDGE SEES PROBABLE CAUSE

During the subsequent April 6 Gulf Mart robbery, the suspect was wearing a pair of brown work boots, not the black-and-white sneakers.

And when police searched the outside trash and interior of the Westbrook apartment where Card had been staying, they found pairs of purple examination gloves similar to the ones used in the Gulf Mart holdup, Sahrbeck said.

Justice Warren ultimately found that police had probable cause for the arrest, and while he acknowledged Gonzales’ argument that Card did not match the description given by a Gulf Mart witness, he said eyewitness identification is not always reliable and gave weight to the other evidence presented.

Gonzales requested $5,000 cash bail. Sahrbeck requested the amount remain at $50,000, which was set by a bail commissioner following Card’s arrest.

Warren imposed $25,000 cash, and if Card posts it, he would be required to not possess alcohol or drugs, submit to random search and testing for those substances, and submit to house arrest.

Card’s arrest came after a total of 15 robberies, including three in Westbrook and 12 spread across eight other communities. While a different suspect was arrested and charged with a robbery in Gorham on April 7, police had said they believed the remaining 14 could be connected.

Travis Card stands in front of the judge with his lawyer Heather Gonzales at his arraignment Tuesday at the Superior Court in Portland. Card is being charged in connection with the robbery of the Gulf Mart on Bridgton Road in Westbrook on April 6, one of numerous armed robberies committed in recent weeks against small businesses across southern Maine. The judge set bail at $25,000. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

INVESTIGATION UNDER WRAPS

FBI agents and police from Westbrook, Portland and South Portland swarmed Card’s vehicle shortly after he left his father’s house in Westbrook on Friday morning on his way to work.

Travis Card has a family home in Windham along with his wife and two children, ages 9 and 1. But he had been staying with his father, Ray Card Jr., in recent weeks because of marital difficulties, his father said.

Investigators searched Card’s father’s home after the arrest Friday and confiscated a BB pistol, multiple pairs of gloves, a black sweatshirt and other items, according to a receipt police provided to Ray Card Jr. They also took the trash cans, he said.

According to a portion of the search warrant provided to Ray Card Jr., police listed what they believed they might find in the apartment, including a black semi-automatic pistol, blue jeans, a blue hooded sweatshirt, a black ski mask, a pair of black work gloves with a white stripe across the wrist, purple nitrile gloves, a purple or lavender scarf, a Garmin GPS unit in Card’s work truck, and Card’s black iPhone.

But police are keeping their investigation under wraps. The search warrant affidavit, the document that describes to a judge why police believe they have enough evidence to warrant a search, has been sealed.

Warren also granted an order impounding the affidavit for Card’s arrest, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Because Card was charged with a felony, he did not have to enter a plea Tuesday. Police and prosecutors next have to bring the charges before a grand jury, who will be asked to indict Card formally on the robbery charge. It is a process that can take months, depending on the speed of the investigation and the complexity of the charges being filed.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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