Letter written in prison, confessing sex crimes, gets Turlock bank robber rearrested

Zeb Boothe Grunloh
Zeb Boothe Grunloh

A letter a bank robber wrote and mailed to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office earlier this year, prior to his release from prison, led to his arrest Monday on charges of sexual offenses against a minor.

Turlock police arrested 36-year-old Zeb Boothe Grunloh, who was on parole, without incident at his home, department spokeswoman Deandra Wiley told The Bee.

He was booked on suspicion of sexual penetration of a person under age 16, oral copulation with a person under 16 when the defendant is 21 or older, and annoying or molesting a person under 18. Grunloh remained in custody Tuesday, with bail set at $200,000.

The crimes Grunloh confessed to occurred 14 years ago, when he would have been about 22, Wiley said. “The victim referenced in the letter was contacted,” she said, “and confirmed the accuracy of the letter’s content.”

Grunloh was arrested March 1, 2016, in the robbery of a Hilmar bank, the Merced Sun-Star reported at the time.

Merced County Sheriff’s Office deputies said he entered the Farmers & Merchants Bank just after 3 p.m. Feb. 29 and passed a note to a bank clerk. The bank employee believed the robber may have been armed, but no weapon was seen nor found in a later search of Grunloh’s home, deputies said.

Grunloh ended up pleading no contest to the robbery charge and that spring was sentenced to three years in prison, with 81 days’ credit for time served, according to Merced Superior Court records.

Years before the robbery, Grunloh made a headline in The Modesto Bee: “Escapee uses bathroom, suspected in theft.”

The June 2, 2012, article read, “If a business is nice enough to let you use its bathroom, perhaps you shouldn’t steal a purse while you’re there, especially if you’re an escapee.”

Turlock police said Grunloh, then 29, walked into the Center Street Grill and asked to use the restroom. After he left, an employee discovered her purse was missing. Someone in the restaurant recognized Grunloh.

The investigation found the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department was seeking Grunloh after he cut off the ankle bracelet monitoring device he was required to wear. Officers found Grunloh at a house on Bothun Road and arrested him.

Anyone with any information on the charges Grunloh currently faces is encouraged to contact Turlock police Detective Tim Redd at 209-664-7325.

Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.