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Upstate bank robbery that left 3 dead still unsolved

GREER - The phone call David Holtzclaw received just hours after he last saw his mother alive has forever changed the life he will live.

Holtzclaw anxiously awaits the day when someone - anyone - can tell him and his brother who killed their mother in the Blue Ridge Savings Bank robbery that six years later remains one of the Upstate's most inexplicable unsolved crimes.

Today, authorities said they are just as perplexed as the day they started investigating the May 2003 shooting deaths of bank teller Sylvia Holtzclaw and two customers.

The three were the only people inside the small bank along a dead-end road off Interstate 85 and State 14 in Greer.

Thousands of leads have come in. None has panned out, and the best suspect police could develop is dead.

A break in the case, they said, likely will come only if someone decides to talk.

"I do believe this case is solvable," said Lisa Quillen, an agent in the Greenville FBI office who has been assigned to the case for the past several years. "Someone out there has information; I believe they just haven't come forward yet."

Holtzclaw hopes that's true.

"We're hoping that maybe somebody who does know something will all of a sudden come out and talk," he said recently.

It wasn't Sylvia Holtzclaw's day to work on May 16, 2003.

David, 30 at the time of his mother's death, had planned to spend the Friday with her before heading back to his home in Tallahassee, Fla., after a belated Mother's Day visit.

Sylvia Holtzclaw had volunteered to fill in for a co-worker. She was the only employee in the bank when she was killed.

David had come to the bank to bring his mother lunch just a few hours before the panic alarm sounded around 1:30 p.m.

Police arrived 10 minutes later to find Sylvia Holtzclaw, 56, shot to death, along with Margaret Barnes, 58, and her husband, James Barnes, 62, a physics professor at what was then the University of South Carolina-Spartanburg.

Whoever killed them made away with "relatively little money," said Carol Allison, an FBI agent in the Greenville office.

All three showed no signs that they were anything but compliant during the robbery, she said.

A VCR-style security camera was set up in the bank, but police found the tape missing.

Surveillance video from a nearby gas station captured a grainy image of a car, later determined to be a red Oldsmobile Alero, going to and from the bank within a seven-minute time frame around the time of the killings.

In 2007 police sought the public's help in providing information about a man they believed could have had a hand in the murders, 39-year-old Emmerson Wright.

The problem: Wright killed himself in August 2005 after fleeing police following a chase in Georgia.

A few months before, Wright escaped police during a chase in which he was driving a red Oldsmobile Alero that had been stolen two weeks before the Blue Ridge killings.

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