A close friend of Crystal R. Little, the Lexington woman charged with four bank robberies, said Monday that Little had caved in under the weight of growing financial and family problems.
"I want everyone to know that this is not Crystal Little," Melinda Belleville said. "This is not a bad person.
"I could never believe in a million years that she would become involved in something like this. But she would not or could not ask for help until it was too late."
Belleville spoke outside a courtroom at Fayette District Court, where Little received her first hearing Monday afternoon.
District Judge T. Bruce Bell directed that Little will be represented by the public defender's office, at least for now, and ordered that she remain in jail on $30,000 bond.
Little, 29, appeared via video from the Fayette County Detention Center, where she has been held since her arrest Saturday. Little told the judge that she and some friends are trying to arrange for an attorney, and Bell said the public defender's office would represent her until she can retain counsel.
Bell scheduled a hearing in the case for Aug. 8.
Little, who originally is from Albany in Clinton County, works in the University of Kentucky's Office of Research Integrity, which ensures that research projects follow approved guidelines and procedures.
Belleville described herself as a friend and surrogate mother to Little. She said she and other friends were shocked when they learned of Little's arrest over the weekend.
"I'm heartbroken and angry; I'm sad for her," Belleville said.
Lexington police arrested Little shortly after a PNC Bank branch on Tates Creek Centre Drive was robbed about 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Officers later charged her with that robbery, plus robberies at three other Lexington banks dating back to 2010. Police said that in each case, a female robber implied that she was armed and concealed her face with a pink toboggan, sunglasses and a surgical mask.
Police arrested Little after following up on tips that led them to a home on Sugar Creek Drive in Lexington.
Little had been taking care of a niece and handling other pressing family matters for several years, said Belleville, who broke into tears at times as she spoke.
"Her family considered her the one to fix everything or take care of everything," Belleville said. "She thought she could do it all ... but she got in over her head.
"She would never hurt a fly. There are so many people who would do anything for her. But she didn't or couldn't ask for help."
Belleville said she spoke with Little on Sunday and described her as being "mortified" by her arrest.
"I really don't understand why she felt that she had to go down this road," Belleville said. "She didn't know what else to do."
While attending UK, Little worked on the staff of the student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel. She was the newspaper's summer editor in 2006. Later, as projects editor, she directed and did much of the writing on a project about AIDS that won the Kernel a Pacemaker Award, the top prize given to college newspapers.
Little was a newsroom intern at the Herald-Leader in 2006, and she then was a temporary news assistant at various times between September 2006 and January 2008.
Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.