Saturday, November 30, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Scurlock: Known For Looks, Charm And His Big Tips -- 4-Year String Of Robberies Shocks Friends

Seattle Times Staff Reporters

With his curly dark hair, trim body and easy smile, the man police called "Hollywood" left a vivid impression, especially on women.

"He looks like Mel Gibson, I swear to God," his lawyer Shawn Newman told a receptionist. She agreed that William Scott Scurlock was a knockout, and dated him.

When people visited "Scotty" Scurlock's home near Olympia, they found one of the most romantic spots in Thurston County: a three-story treehouse, complete with kitchen, plumbing, stereo and 30 windows, that seemed to float more than 60 feet above ground, facing Mount Rainier. Built by him alone, Scurlock's treehouse never failed to amaze and charm.

Scurlock, 41, died Thursday after apparently shooting himself as police were closing in on him in Seattle's Ravenna neighborhood. Police identified Scurlock as the man responsible for 14 Seattle-area bank robberies dating back to June 1992.

In Olympia, where he lived off and on since his days as a student at The Evergreen State College, Scurlock left behind friends and acquaintances shocked to hear of his alleged life of crime.

In the wake of Scurlock's death, friends and acquaintances are left with numerous questions. What prompted him to go on a bank-robbing spree unprecedented in the Puget Sound region? How was he able to keep it hidden? What did he do with all the money?

The questions may never be answered.

Most described him as an intelligent, athletic man with an engaging personality, fond of travel and adventure, though somewhat private about his personal life. Except for some minor brushes with the law, Scurlock appeared to live a quiet life, with occasional carpentry as his one visible source of income.

During warmer months, Scurlock would often be seen at the Budd Bay Cafe, one of Olympia's trendy spots, where he made a vivid impression.

Scurlock would typically order the night's special, washed down with expensive champagne, either Dom Perignon or Crystal, about $125 a bottle. In one sitting, Scurlock would run up a bill of $200 to $250 for two or three people, and only $30 of that was for food, said Brett Hibberd, owner of the Budd Bay Cafe.

"He was quiet. The wait staff loved his big tips," Hibberd said.

Scurlock came to lawyer Newman when Thurston County officials were threatening to tear down the treehouse, which shared 19 acres with a four-bedroom farmhouse that Scurlock had remodeled. After an exchange of letters, Thurston County backed away, Newman said.

Newman also represented Scurlock stemming from an incident last year in which Scurlock and a friend took a car onto a construction site and did doughnuts over a newly-graded area. Scurlock wasn't the driver and the malicious mischief charge was ultimately dismissed.

Also last year, Scurlock was arrested for refusing to get out of a car following a traffic stop by police. A car driven by a friend had been pulled over by police and Scurlock, who apparently had been drinking, was worried he'd be arrested for public drunkenness if he got out of the car. That case was also dismissed after Scurlock underwent counseling, Newman said.

Other court records indicate Scurlock was arrested by King County Police on Jan. 24, 1996, for speeding. He later paid a $114 fine.

Newman did not get to know Scurlock very well, but found him to be very pleasant. The two talked about their shared interest in scuba diving, which Scurlock had done in Hawaii and the Seychelles, the island nation off Africa. Newman never got the impression that there was anything criminal in Scurlock's personality.

"He wasn't a rough-type personality. He was very well-mannered," Newman said. "He was an interesting guy. If you were to see him on the street, even if he hadn't shaved for a couple of days, he still looked good. He was very physically fit."

For years, Scurlock lived the life of a carefree surfer in Hawaii, where he grew tomatoes and swam farther than any of his friends, said his cousin Stuart Scurlock, who shared a house with him in the 1970s.

Stuart Scurlock said he has not seen his cousin in 13 years. A mutual friend called him with the news. Stuart Scurlock described his cousin as being a "hippie."

"I can't even comprehend him getting into any violent world," Scurlock said. "He was always gentle, peace-loving. I can't picture something like this."

At age 27, Scurlock gave an interview to The Seattle Times for an article about his treehouse, where he entertained the reporter with quiche and music. Identified in the article only as Scott, Scurlock told the reporter that he had grown up in Virginia and lived for a while in Hawaii, before moving to the Northwest. He said he studied organic chemistry and biochemistry at Evergreen.

"Aware of his image as an Evergreen State Tarzan, Scott wore a mask of rare bird feathers and a loincloth to a Halloween party last year," the Times reporter wrote.

According to Olympia lawyer Paul Reed, Scurlock was married years ago. He was divorced in 1990 and had no children, said Burdena Pasenelli, special agent in charge of Washington State FBI operations. Since then, Scurlock had dated a large number of women.

"Scotty's always been a ladies' man. He always had a different lady than the one I saw before," Reed said.

Pasenelli described Scurlock as an "organized" individual who liked mountain climbing, was very athletic and college-educated. Much of the money he had taken during the string of bank robberies may have been spent on traveling, she said.

Other than champagne, Scurlock didn't show flashy tastes. He wore older L.L. Bean-type outdoor clothing and drove a 1940s-era truck, said Reed. He was engaging and charming, but also focused and in control of himself, said Reed.

Reed described his ex-wife as a friend of Scurlock's younger sister, Debbie, who lives in Colorado. Debbie Scurlock also attended Evergreen and lived on the property with her brother several years ago, Reed said.

Scurlock's parents are believed to be living in Arizona. Efforts to contact them were unsuccessful.

"I can imagine him being a getaway artist. He's extremely athletic. I can see him getting in petty trouble, doing things on a lark, for a thrill. But I don't see him being a dangerous person," said Reed. "He could be a Robin Hood or a Braveheart, but robbing banks and shootouts with police? That wouldn't be his style. It's hard to believe that."

But some saw a less pleasant side to Scurlock.

Neighbors say they knew little about Scurlock except that he hated real-estate signs posted on the country road where he lived. He disliked the signs so much he often knocked them off their posts.

Two years ago, Scurlock threatened his neighbor Greg Smith, who lived a quarter-mile away, for posting "for sale" signs on the road. The two had a running battle over the signs. Every time Smith hoisted a sign up, Scurlock would tear it down.

One evening, Scurlock drove to Smith's home demanding that he stop putting real-estate signs on the road.

"He was the scariest guy I've ever met," said Smith, a campus minister at Evergreen. "He was in a rage. He was cursing and screaming and threatening me just because of the signs."

Although Scurlock did not threaten him with a weapon, Smith said, he was still frightened by his temper. Smith said it was the only time he ever met his neighbor. Smith said he immediately reported the incident to the Thurston County Sheriff's Department. An officer later went to Scurlock's home and told him not to pull the signs down.

"I wasn't surprised to see police in front of his house yesterday morning," Smith said. "To see somebody like that in such an angry state, you knew something was bound to happen one day."

Information from Seattle Times staff reporter Peyton Whitely is included in this report.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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