Barbara Joly realized she was almost out of gas. Pulling her redChevy Cobalt up to a pump - $6,084 from her robbery of the Mason PeoplesBuilding & Loan on the seat beside her - the 68-year-old housewifeand grandmother got out to fill her tank as a pack of wailing policecruisers roared by.
"I saw all the police cars, and I rememberwondering where they were going," she says four years later, sitting on ahard plastic chair in the visiting room at the Dayton CorrectionalInstitution. "Then I realized it was me."
Barbara Joly wasn't used to being the center of attention.
Untilshe undertook a eight-month bank robbery spree and became an Internetsensation known as the "Granny Robber," Joly's name was unknown beyondMiddletown's closely linked church and parochial-school circles.
She was the skilled seamstress who sewed prayer shawls for cancer patients and made warming hats for premature babies.
Shewas the Irish-descended, non-voting member of the Sons of Italy - thereevery Thursday night for bocce, keeper of the money and buyer of thegroceries for their fundraising dinners. "She did it for at least fiveyears," fellow member Rosetta DiCristoforo says. "She never touched apenny."
Barbara was also known as the mother of Chris Joly, anoted athlete at Bishop Fenwick High School. That was where she spentfive months a year organizing booths for the annual festival and endlesshours raising money for athletics.
The high school once named herbooster of the year. After repeatedly calling her to mid-courtceremonies during halftime of a basketball game, booster leaders finallytracked her down in the school's basement kitchen. She was washingdishes and hurried to accept the award still wearing her apron.
Howfar she'd go to support her son wasn't clear to anyone - even Barbaraherself - until two decades later, when she'd rob banks in Middletown,Lebanon and Mason and finally be arrested two blocks from her lasttarget in Franklin. All to rescue Chris.
How could it be that thedoting grandmother with 14 photographs of her grandchild in her livingroom, who'd never had so much as a traffic ticket, had turned into afelon?
Her priest, who had seen her at 9 a.m. Mass nearly everySunday for 19 years, says she was the last person in his parish of whomhe would have believed it possible.
Her husband of nearly 50 yearswas so unsuspecting that he once coaxed her to the television to see aclip of the escaping Granny Robber, teasing, "Barb, that looks like yourlittle red car."
Barbara herself would tell a judge, "I'm sosorry for the horrible mistakes I've made. I just can't make heads ortails of some of it."
And for the 31/2 years since Joly started serving a nine-year prison term, no one has.
NowJoly, Inmate 74444 at Dayton Correctional Institution, has given herfirst interview, and family and friends have finally spoken. From theirdetailed accounts of her life and actions, it's clear the seeds of herundoing were sown as far back as her childhood, when her family's onlypossessions were ruined in a Thanksgiving Day fire that plunged theminto crippling debt.
They took root in her adolescence in upwardlymobile Kettering, where classmates wore cashmere and Barbara woreclothing she made herself - social distinctions she'd recall when herson entered high school and his higher-income classmates "were dressedto the nines whenever there was occasion for it."
"I think it wasalways up here," she would say in a prison interview, tapping her head,"the idea that Chris shouldn't do without. Chris was not a child whoasked for a lot, but I gave a lot."
At some point Barbara Joly'sgiving turned to giving in, as she breached the boundaries of reasonableparenting to overindulge her son.
And then it turned to givingup, as she ruined her family's finances in fruitless efforts to rescueChris from debt. In the end, she resorted to a desperate plan to remedythings by robbing banks - a plan the former bank teller knew from thestart would fail.
"I knew I would go to jail, but I never thoughtof the consequences - that my son would be hurt, my granddaughter wouldbe hurt, my friends would be crushed," she says. "I had just one focus:Go in, get money and give it to my son."
Her husband, Bill, aretired supervisor at Contech Construction Products in West Chester,didn't know about that plan on Nov. 21, 2008, when a violent poundingbrought him to the front door of his Middletown home. FBI agents rushedin, rifling through drawers, cupboards and Barbara Joly's purse, andfinally emerging from the couple's bedroom with a gray wig and what theysaid was a hold-up note.
Bill Joly was dumbfounded, thenchagrined when he listened to his phone messages and heard his wife say,"I'm in a whole bunch of trouble."
Barbara Joly's crimes wouldstun her neighbors, terrify her victims, mystify two judges. But theywould also, at her lowest point, spark a conversation the Joly familyhad avoided for years - a conversation not unlike that many Americanfamilies face, of where to set boundaries for offspring, how to faceconflict rather than avoid it, how to talk to each other and how to saywhat needs to be said.
That conversation took place a few daysafter the FBI raid of the Joly home, with a shaken Barbara Joly - freshout on bail - initiating it, and parents and son laying open problemsthey'd kept covered for years.
"You might say," Bill Joly says, "the new life of our family started from that moment on."
By the time she was in junior high, Barbara Laughlin had moved seventimes, her impoverished parents migrating across Dayton, Kettering andWarren County to find a place they could afford to rent.
Schoolpictures show the three Laughlin children in patches - their skinnywrists and ankles sticking out of clothing they had long since outgrown.In the Laughlin house, even basic necessities often met with Barbara'sfather's most common response, "That's not in the budget right now."
Still,Thanksgiving Day when Barbara was 10 was to be a day of celebration andeven a little excess. Both sides of her large extended family wereexpected for lunch. That morning her father, Scott Laughlin, a tenantfarmer and milkman, was away at the dairy after spending weeksrenovating their leased Waynesville farmhouse using rented equipment.Gertrude Laughlin, a homemaker, had preheated the oven and was ready tobegin the day's cooking.
As she opened the door to the kitchen, a gas leak triggered an explosion. Flames quickly engulfed the walls.
Gertrude tried to wave down hunters in a distant field, then sent Barbara and her brother to find help at surrounding farms.
The houses were too far away and the help too late. The farmhouse burned to the ground. The family had no insurance.
ScottLaughlin - an Irishman so stoic, Barbara's brother David Laughlinremembers, "he wouldn't tell you if he had a nail in his shoe" - refusedto declare bankruptcy, insisting he would pay back what he owed. "Theburden ..." Laughlin remembers, shaking his head. "There was nothingextra."
To help out, Barbara, the oldest, was soon making her ownclothes and became the neighborhood babysitter - dependable,even-natured and infatuated with children.
A rule-follower, shetook her father's lessons to heart: Take care of things yourself,without complaint. Don't trot the family's business around theneighborhood. "Nunya," her father would say when a private orcontroversial issue came up. "That's nunya business."
If conversation followed, he'd snap his fingers as a signal for his children to shut up.
Barbara learned the lesson well. Except once.
Acouple with a young child lived up the street from the Laughlins. Bothwere heavy drinkers and neglectful parents. One day the boy toddled downthe street alone in nothing but a diaper.
Barbara, aneighth-grader who already was telling friends she'd one day have a largefamily, snatched him up, ran up the street and confronted his parents."She was screaming and yelling at them - 'Why aren't you watching him?He's your son, why aren't you watching him?' " - her brother Davidremembers. "It put me back on my heels."
When her father found out, he made her go back up the street and apologize.
A more headstrong child might have argued her case. Barbara did as she was told.
Barbarawas so conforming she was never - "never, ever," her brother David says- in trouble, and so guileless she could never master strategies forthe card games her grandfather tried to teach her.
Gangly andaffable, Barbara stood out for simple talents. She sewed and knittedsuperbly, taught by her grandmother on the family's front porch. She hadflawless penmanship. She had a knack for styling hair.
AtKettering's Fairmount High School, "Bobbi" Laughlin threw herself intopep club and chorus, but was so unathletic she bombed at tryouts for theRhythmettes dance squad. She had so much trouble operating the familyStudebaker that her frugal father finally paid someone to teach her todrive.
A good student, she enrolled at Ohio State University inthe fall of 1958, only to learn her parents couldn't pay for a secondquarter. She returned home to Kettering, and a family friend helped herland a teller's job at Winter's Bank in Dayton.
She would work on and off in banking until 2006.
By19, she had met and married Bill Joly, six years her senior and ahigh-energy, talkative, up-and-coming accountant at Armco Steel. Thetwo moved to Middletown.
His young wife was so deferential "she'd melt in a crowd," he says now.
"She wasn't the effervescent type - not a wallflower, but not a yack-yack-yacker."
Herbrother-in-law Michael Joly remembers her as "a pert redhead,spontaneous, a cute little smile. Everybody in the family liked Barbara.She was easy to like."
Barbara's life soon revolved around Billand five other couples. The youngest of the group, Barbara soon becameeveryone's babysitter.
"She was a true bobby soxer," her sisterBonnie Moss recalls. "She created that home all around her, just the wayBetty Furness would have kept it." (Furness was a 1950s-era actressfeatured in TV ads for Westinghouse products.)
The Jolys'marriage followed a traditional pattern. Barbara took care of the insideof the house, Bill took care of the outside. Barbara made her clothes,the bed and the meals. Bill made the income.
Life was good for the young couple. Barbara had more material comforts than she'd ever known.
Only one thing haunted her. After dreaming of a large family since junior high, she found out she couldn't have a child.
Twenty-nine-year-old Barbara Joly answered the phone thinking sheknew why the nun on the other end was calling. A church fundraiser wasapproaching and Barbara, an exceptional seamstress, had agreed to make a"money doll" on which donors would attach their contributions.
"Well,are you ready?" the nun asked, and the excitement in her voice toldBarbara that her agonizing 10-year wait was finally over.
All thattime she had celebrated friends' pregnancies, supported her unmarriedteenage sister as she placed a baby for adoption, while enduring roundsof futile fertility treatments.
Now a baby boy was waiting for Barbara and Bill Joly to adopt him, the nun said.
Barbara burst into tears.
Fromthat moment on, "she centered her life around bringing up her son," herbrother-in-law Michael Joly says. "And Chris could do no wrong."
Thematernal energy Barbara had built up from adolescence, when she firstdreamed of being the matriarch of a large family, would now be investedin her only child.
Motherhood would define Barbara Joly. It wouldreveal her obvious talents and hidden ambitions, her easy generosity andlatent insecurities. It would bring out her best instincts and herworst.
As a new mother, she would polish her toddler son'shigh-top white shoes every day while he slept. She would banneighborhood children from thumping basketballs against the garage doorduring his nap, then tiptoed them upstairs to admire him sleeping. Shewould trim his hair every week, and press even his play clothes.
Friendschided her for never buying clothing even a half-size too big. She shotback that she never wanted Chris to look "sloppy." They told her whatshe needed was more kids.
By elementary school, Chris Joly wasdrawing attention for his athletic skills, and Bill and Barbara wererelishing being the parents of a star.
Chris Joly, now 43, saysthe happiest he ever saw his mother was when he was 8 years old and wontwo gold medals and one silver at a swimming championship at RollingHills Country Club in Fairfield.
"I finished the race and saw hercome running down to the pool. She was just ecstatic," he says. "She wasright next to my swim coach, jumping up and down."
Chris would goon to play soccer, baseball, basketball and football, and the Jolyswould be there for every game, crisscrossing the state for summertournaments, building their social life around their son's athletics.
Hismother would keep score at every game, in every sport. His father wouldremember the name of the swimmers Chris beat at the Rolling Hills meet34 years later.
Soon Barbara Joly could talk of little but herson, and tolerated no criticism of him. When coaches berated him at aLittle League game, she yanked him out and took him home. When analtercation arose with his friends, she was immediately on the phone totheir parents or at their front door. When Chris faced drunken-drivingcharges as a teenager, his mother alternately excused his behavior ordenied it.
"Nobody was better than Chris," says RosettaDiCristoforo, a neighbor and friend of the Jolys for 43 years. "Chriswas at the top of the mountain - Chris was a genius at math, he was thebest dressed, he dated the most beautiful girls. She sacrificed all ofher life for him. She was fixated with her son. She lived for him."
Theeffect wasn't lost on Chris. Early on his mother became his confidantand ally, and a way to avoid communication with his sterner father.
"Iknew I could always ask my mom, and if it got past her, it would getpast Dad. I knew she had a hard time saying no to me. And I knew hercommunication with Dad was always tenuous," he says. "So instead of aconnection among the three of us, it would be a conversation between mymom and me, and she'd say, 'I'll take care of it.' "
Her effortsto help Chris became extreme. After he and his date missed their promcruise, she found a speedboat to try to catch the larger boat. Shedrove to Miami University to pick up his laundry and clean hisfrat-house room; and sent him on a golf trip to cheer him up as anadult after having decimated her savings to rescue him from debt.
Apsychologist evaluating Barbara after her crimes would write that, toavoid upsetting her husband, she would leave him out of the loop. "Shehated arguments, and she found it easier not to involve him. To describeher as emotionally enmeshed with her adopted son - her only child -would be to understate the point."
From his infancy, Barbara andBill Joly had told their son he could turn to them for anything. Inadolescence, he took them at their word.
He volunteered his motherfor everything at Bishop Fenwick High School, to the extent that she'dbe called away from one activity to help with another. He brought hometickets for school fundraisers that his father sold door-to-door. Fromout-of-state travel for athletics to custom-made shoes for his narrowfeet, nothing was denied Chris Joly. Years later his mother would saythat at some point Chris began to believe he was entitled to theirsavings - but that those savings were far smaller than he thought.
"Chris always knew he was going to be helped out," agrees Barbara's sister Bonnie Moss. "Real life had never really hit him."
For 33 years, life went easy on Chris Joly. Captain of his highschool football, basketball and baseball teams, social chair of hisMiami University fraternity, he'd married his college sweetheart, taken ajob as marketing director of a Louisville insurance company and become afather.
Then in 2002, in quick succession, he lost his marriage, job and financial footing.
"I thought it was the perfect life," says his mother, Barbara Joly. "And then it just blew up."
Chriswas overextended after buying a larger house with a $10,000 downpayment from his parents to try to save his marriage. Then two years ofunemployment and several more at lower-paying jobs left him behind onmonthly expenses that included private-school tuition for his daughter,car payments, rent and substantial credit-card debt.
By 2004,creditors were hounding not only him but his parents - whose phonenumber he had given them - threatening to garnish his wages or take himto court.
Chris Joly knew where to turn for help.
"We alwaystold our son, 'When you have a problem, bring it to us,' " Barbara Jolysays. "But that kind of interpreted to 'Bring it to Mom.' "
He'dcall late at night, to avoid speaking with his dad, and begin with "Ma,"the name that meant he was about to ask for something. His mother wouldtake the calls in a back bedroom, hunched over the phone.
"I'dhear her say, 'Uh-ha, uh-ha, uh-ha,' and I'd say, 'Do you ever say no?' "Bill Joly says. "She couldn't put one foot in front of the other fastenough to help him."
Spending on Chris had long been a point of contention for the couple.
Barbara,who had grown up poor, wanted her only child to have nice clothes, aprivate school education, money for socializing and college tuition.
Bill, who retired in 1996 from a 40-year career in management and accounting, wanted to know where they'd finally draw the line.
ButBarbara wouldn't back down when it came to Chris. "It was always, 'Ifyou're not going to make this happen, I will,' " her brother DavidLaughlin says.
Soon Chris was bringing his mother spreadsheets ofhis expenses, and she was writing him checks for $500, $2,000 and$3,000, sometimes even wiring money for an urgent need.
"I thoughtmy dad knew about it," Chris Joly says. "Sometimes she'd say, "I cangive this much, and I'm going to have to ask your dad if you need anymore."
But at one point Bill drew the line - "I said, damn, Barb,when is this going to stop?" he remembers - and said Chris should take asecond job to deal with his own debt.
At that, Barbara started to conceal her giving.
"Ithought that meant Chris wouldn't have time for his daughter, and thatscared me more than anything because she's my pride and joy, too,"Barbara says.
Barbara had taken over billpaying and banking dutieswhen her husband retired. Over the next years, she would slowlydecimate the couple's savings, channeling more than a quarter milliondollars to rescue her son.
Four years after his wife's arrest, ashe struggles to erase $84,000 in debt on the home he and his wife hadonce paid off and chips away at $8,000 in remaining credit-card debt,Bill Joly says he regrets "burdening" his wife with the family finances.He says that only when she was arrested did he learn the disastrousshape they were in.
"When I looked back over her checkbook, Icould tell the end was near. There was no way out unless everything wasgoing to blow up," he says.
But Barbara Joly was afraid ofsomething more than her husband finding out she'd drained theirretirement savings. She was terrified that her son was despondent overfinances. "She told me she believed Chris was suicidal," says hersister, Bonnie Moss.
But while Barbara would confide it to family and friends, she refused to share it with prosecutors or judges.
Evenfour years later, when she hesitantly broaches the topic with TheEnquirer, she can't immediately bring herself to identify him.
"Ihad been financially supplying a family member for a long time, and Iran out of funds," she says carefully. "I was more and more stressed. Itaught this person how to love, and how to get along with people. Butwhat I didn't teach him was what to do if you have a failure in yourlife.
"He had had a golden life. He had always succeeded. And when this failure came along, he didn't know how to handle it."
Neitherdid his mother, who, a psychologist would write, "had an almosthyper-generous orientation toward those - including her adult son - whoshe perceived as being in need." She was devastated by his divorce anddistressed over "these horrendous bills - they just stacked up andstacked up." At peak, Barbara would give Chris $5,000 a month to pay offdebts that included trips to the West Coast and Paris.
It wasnever enough. Over time, she drained $75,000 of her own savings and anequal amount from her husband's inheritance from his parents, exhausted a$100,000 home-equity loan, borrowed from her sister, brother and niece,and maxed out the couple's credit cards, running up $30,000 of debt onone card alone.
"I was trying to pay my bills, pay my familyback, but it got worse and worse. I thought, "What am I going to do? Idon't have another source of funds. I didn't know there was some place Icould go for help," she says. "I could see my son going downhill and Icould feel myself doing the same thing. And I thought, 'I don't knowwhere to go with this.'"
In her nylon jacket, white headscarf and sunglasses, the elderlywoman who walked into the Community National Bank in Middletown wasutterly forgettable. The note she slid across to a young teller was not.
It said a gun was trained on her and to hand over the cash in her drawer.
The teller would be so traumatized she would quit her job and leave banking entirely.
Therobber, 68-year-old seamstress and grandmother Barbara Joly, woulddrive less than two miles to her home, briefly sit on her bed and stareat the money she'd just stolen, then drive to her own bank, deposit itand send it off in a check to her son.
"Frankly, I don't remembersaying anything," she says now. "The first robbery that I did is the oneI remember the least about. I must have been in a state of shockmyself."
Barbara Joly was a coupon-clipper and bulk buyer. She wasa woman who felt guilty treating herself to a new Longaberger basketonce a year.
She was the neighbor who walked down the streetdaily, sometimes barefoot, to check on a cancer-stricken friend, thewife who made the world's best angel food cake, the mom of whom thereare few pictures because she always had the camera in her purse.
Andduring her own two-decade career in banking, she was the teller knownfor balancing her drawer, the vault and the entire bank branch down tothe last cent.
But in 2008, Barbara Joly's desperation to rescueher debt-ridden son - whom she believed was depressed and suicidal -would lead her to rob banks in Middletown, Mason, Lebanon and Franklinover eight months.
"Her husband, Bill, made Barbara give her wordthat they would give Chris no more money, and she's a person with a sonwho doesn't want to live, and she gave her word and something clicks,and the next day, she robs a bank," says her attorney Chris Atkins.
Hercrimes would make her the target of a three-county FBI investigationand the butt of jokes by late-night talk-show hosts and Internetbloggers, who called her the Granny Robber and snickered at herunsophisticated disguise and awkward gait.
In fact, her simpleapproach worked in her favor. She slid into banks so unassumingly thatcustomers held the door open for her, and she exited the same way. Sheparked her car a short distance from her target and ambled back to itafter her crime, putting the cash she'd gotten on the seat beside her.She handwrote simple demands and was content with whatever cash thetellers pulled from their drawers, rather than forcing them to thevault.
"I tried not to do it in a violent way. I didn't have aweapon. I didn't have a partner. I've never slapped anyone in my life,"she says. "That's all I can say. It was not a big plan. I was not tryingto get all the money they had.
"I wasn't a very good bank robber - obviously, I wasn't a very good bank robber."
Still, Joly had knowledge that most robbers don't. In 2003, she was working as a teller in a bank when it was robbed.
Jolypositioned herself to get a look at the robber's face and shouted toco-workers to lock the door after he left. The next day when FBI agentscame to her home, she eagerly sorted through photos to identify him.
She isn't sure if the incident led her to think of robbery. She says all she remembers is how desperate she felt.
"Ihad gone to my family for help, and it was embarrassing, upsetting -trying to work and pay my bills and then help my son and pay them back,"she says. "My checking account was down to zilch. I used every penny Imade to try to pay back what I had borrowed, and then (Chris) would calland say, 'They're going to garnish my wages. I'm going to have to go tocourt if I don't pay this credit card.' It got to the point where Icouldn't keep going."
Stress had ruined her sleep, thinned herhair, hunched her shoulders. From sociable and easygoing, she'd becomejittery and distracted.
"We'd play bocce together and every oncein a while I'd see an emotion in her eyes, like there was somethingshe's hiding," says her friend Rosetta DiCristoforo. "She told me, 'I'mpulled between my husband and my son.' "
When Chris called justbefore Thanksgiving in 2008 to again ask for help, his mother determinedshe would make one more attempt to save him.
On Nov. 21, shedrove to Franklin to rob the Huntington National Bank, across the streetfrom a bank where she had worked and directly behind the policestation.
"I knew there were people who would more or less know me.When I walked in, I thought this will stop it, and this is the onlyway," she says. "It would stop me from continuing to rob banks,continuing to give to my son, continuing to lie to my husband andcontinuing to wreck my life."
She approached a young teller and handed her a note that demanded money and warned of an armed accomplice.
Simultaneously, a male co-worker approached to ask the teller if she was ready for lunch.
"She looked right at him and said, 'No!' and I knew that I was done," Joly says.
Theteller's alarm had been noted. Law enforcement agencies had beennotified. And five minutes after walking out of the bank and making asingle right turn in her red Chevy Cobalt, Joly was surrounded by policecars.
"All I could feel," she says, "was relief."
Shortlyafter, in the interview room at the Franklin police station, Jolyanswered Detective Jeffery Stewart's questions politely but vaguely. Shesaid she did not know why she had been stopped by police. She said shewas on her way home from a fabric store and exited at Franklin forcheaper gas. When Stewart brought up the money sack found in her car,she said she thought she should probably speak to an attorney.
"Shedidn't appear surprised, not crying, no strong emotions. She wasn'tbelligerent in any way," Stewart says. "I don't know if relief is what Iheard, but more or less someone who knew it was coming. She just kindof took her medicine."
That night, as Charnice Supper sat watchingthe evening news and saw her best friend since high school beingarrested, she went from shock to understanding in a minute.
"Iimmediately figured out why she had done it - she'd talked about themoney she'd given Chris, and Bill didn't know anything about it," Suppersays. "But I also thought, oh, my God, we'd go to Wal-Mart andJoAnne's, we'd use coupons - she'd been robbing the banks we weredriving right by."
Joly's ability to seemingly compartmentalizeher life - to terrorize young bank tellers while she sewed pillows forbreast-cancer victims, to rob banks while she turned in every cent ofthe bingo money she collected - confused prosecuting attorneys, judgesand Barbara's family and friends.
So did the relatively smallamount of money she took - a total of $10,408 in four robberies - whenshe knew the vaults held more, and the proximity of her targets, allwithin 20 minutes of her home.
But getting money wasn't Joly's only wish for her son.
"Chrisand Bill didn't realize what they were doing. Each time Chris wouldcall and his dad would answer the phone, he'd say, "Dad, can I talk toMom?" They just couldn't get that together," she says from the visitingroom at the Dayton Correctional Institute, where she is serving anine-year sentence. "My being out of that equation was the thing weneeded - it brought them together."
The Joly house was mostly silent as two aging parents and an adultson faced each other, Barbara's crimes and their own brokenrelationship. Then they did something they hadn't done in years. Theytold each other the truth.
"Nobody wants to know the truth," BillJoly says now, as he struggles to manage housework, pay the debts hiswife incurred, and jot down family news to have beside the phone for thetwice-weekly phone calls from his wife in prison. "The truth sometimeshurts."
It hurt that night as a shaking Barbara Joly, justreleased from jail on bond, told her family, "I was just ready to goover the edge."
It hurt as she described the tightrope she hadwalked between them, unable to say no to her son's needs because shefeared he would kill himself, unable to tell her husband how much shehad given Chris because he'd see they were financially ruined.
It hurt them to hear that, for years, she'd been sinking in the silence that lay between them.
It hurt her to realize that the two people in the world closest to her didn't see she was sinking at all.
"Billhas never been one to sit down and talk. I couldn't make him see," hiswife of 52 years says in the visiting area at Dayton CorrectionalInstitution, her thinning hair tied up in a knot. "He could seesomething was happening to me, but he couldn't stop to talk about it."
Apsychologist who evaluated Barbara Joly noted her husband's extremeconcern for her, but also his tendency to sidestep her worries aboutChris with comments like, "Let's not even go in that direction - it'sgonna work out."
"He did not come across as the sort of personwho's inclined to spend a lot of time reflecting on the more nuancedaspects of behavior, his own or other people's," the psychologist wrote.
Then a crisis exposed the ruptured relationships and pattern of avoidance that had plagued the Joly family for years.
Barbara'sarrest for four bank robberies - charges that could have carried a20-year prison term - meant there could be no more sidestepping.
Fromearliest childhood, Chris Joly knew he was at the center of hismother's affection, but believed he was a disappointment to his father.He quickly learned to bypass his father by taking concerns to hismother, who relished being his confidante.
"It's the biggestaspect of our family that created the situation - that communication wasvery difficult between my father and I, and my mother was theintermediary," Chris Joly says now. "She wanted to make peace betweenus, and the only way to do that was to say yes to me, and maybe not tellhim what he needed to know."
For Barbara, the friction betweenher son and husband - combined with a compulsive need to smooth her onlychild's way in life - led her to a solitary, secretive and finallyabsurd attempt to save him.
That attempt, her attorney says, tookher out of the safe confines of her quiet, small-town life and shookeven her own basic assumptions about herself.
"In the photographsof her, her eyes were scared," says attorney Chris Atkins. "I think muchof that was being in the legal system, but you don't know if some of itwas being scared of herself - who am I? That's a scary question to askyourself."
"The real Barbara everyone knows is not the Barbara whorobs a bank. The church-goer, the quilt-maker gives us the true Barbarawho does not rob banks. But the Barbara who gets married early, whowonders what life would have been like without that marriage. ... Herlife was such that maybe she never really knew who she was or who shecould have been," Atkins says.
Who Barbara Joly was that November night was a lost soul.
Forcedto confront her actions, to speak the truth to her son and husband,Barbara Joly took the first step to being found. As she told apsychologist later, "Finally, everything had to get laid on the table -no more Mom in the middle."
For the last year, Barbara has beenworking on communication and assertiveness skills with a visiting priestat her prison. When he first invited her to anger management classes,she resisted, saying, "I'm not mad."
Now she says feelings of fearand helplessness were buried deep within her. And she says finally -ironically, confined in a state penitentiary - she has found the freedomto say what she feels.
"I've said to my husband - here's afor-instance - 'Before I came in here, how often did you call our son?'He didn't. I said, 'How often do you call him now?' He said, 'A coupleof times a week.' " She sits forward, her eyes widening. "I said, 'A-ha -doesn't that tell you something?'
"And I had never told my son,now listen to me - you have all the ability you need to stand up on yourown, the faith and the ability to do it yourself," she says, her palecheeks flushing, her words coming in a torrent. "After my arrest, my sonlooked for other jobs. He interviewed and had his choice of jobs. Hestarted one the week I went to Marysville," to the Ohio Reformatory forWomen.
She leans forward. "That's a sign to me that God is sayingto me, 'You need to do something else with your life rather than runningaround in circles trying to do things for them.' "
What ChrisJoly does now is work as a mortgage broker in Louisville. "In hindsight,I should have declared bankruptcy," he says, "but then I wouldn't havebeen able to get licensed in the mortgage field if I did."
Whathis mother does now is teach knitting classes for fellow inmates, menduniforms, make objects for charities and dream of "going home andcooking dinner and just sitting down and talking to my husband and doingthe dishes and doing the laundry and going to the grocery store."
Her attorney says he will request her release in 2017, when she has served eight years of her nine-year sentence.
By then, she will be 76. Bill Joly will be 82.
Hehas kept things as much as possible as they were before his wife wasled off to prison in Feb. 11, 2009, so distraught she could not lookback in the courtroom at her husband, brother and sister, best friendand priest. Barbara's hand-stitched "Welcome" sampler hangs inside thefront door. Her Sudoku and "Curves: Permanent Results without PermanentDieting" books are on the coffee table. "She was big on Curves," Billsays with a smile.
He is waiting to have a knee replacement until she can be beside him. He says he sometimes fears dying before she's released.
"Wecould have taken some trips," he says, dropping the forced cheerfulnessthat is his usual demeanor. "I wanted to go to Alaska so badly. Theworst thing for me is having to take care of the house - to cook, totake care of the laundry. I tell her, 'I'm doing things, babe, that Inever thought I'd have to do.' "
Chris Joly says his mother'simprisonment has altered how he and his parents relate to each other,and changed his father profoundly.
"Before all this happened, mydad wasn't a very emotional person, rarely said I love you, even to mymom. Since then, he's the polar opposite. Now every time we talk on thephone, there are one or two 'I love yous,' " he says. "He's basicallybecome my mom."
At Dayton Correctional Institution, Barbarashakes her head slightly at the thought her imprisonment brought thereconciliation between father and son she'd always wanted.
"Yes,it was a sacrifice and the biggest part of the sacrifice" - here, shecries for the first time in a four-hour interview - "was giving up partof my life with my husband."
Her voice grows stronger. "Because itactually brought us closer. My husband never kissed me in public -never. He was not a really affectionate person. But when I walk inhere," she says glancing across the prison visiting room, "he hugs meand he kisses me and it doesn't matter who's around.
"We have found a stronger love, a stronger marriage - and because of that, it hurts even more."
BillJoly says it hurts him, too - that he feels guilty enjoying a nice mealout because Barb can't, that he misses her every Reds Opening Day, whenhe goes to the parade without her.
"She used to do angel foodcake with this fantastic icing. I haven't had an angel food cake sinceshe left," he says quietly, then visibly rouses himself. "I'm determinedI'm going to be positive for Barb. I don't want her to be scarred bythis. I want her to come home the same person she was when she went in."
It's something Barbara Joly can't promise.
AtDayton Correctional Institution, inmates and even guards still look atthe white-haired, slightly hunched woman in Reeboks, navy pants and ashirt with a green collar - signifying an honor inmate with a lowsecurity risk - and marvel that she's the Granny Robber.
"Theysay, 'Mrs. Joly, come here. I want to talk to you. Are you really thatperson?' she says. "I say, 'Yes, I am - at least I was that person.'
"I don't feel I am any more."