Just after sunrise on the morning of August 9, 2012, in the Houston suburb of Katy, Scott Catt, a fifty-year-old structural engineer, was awakened by the buzzing of his alarm clock in the master bedroom of the apartment he shared with his twenty-year-old son, Hayden, and his eighteen-year-old daughter, Abby. The apartment was in Nottingham Place, a pleasant, family-oriented complex that featured a resort-size swimming pool and a large fitness center.
Scott took a shower, dried off, and ran a brush through his closely cropped, graying hair. He put on a T-shirt, a pair of blue jeans, and some work boots and walked into the living room, where Abby and Hayden were waiting for him on the couch. Hayden was also wearing a T-shirt and jeans, along with some slip-on tennis shoes. His short dark hair was brushed forward, splayed over his forehead. Abby, whose highlighted blond hair fell to her shoulders, was wearing a blouse, black yoga pants, and flip-flops.
“Okay, kids,” Scott said. “You ready?”
Hayden and Abby both nodded. The family headed out the back door and walked toward Abby’s 1999 green Volkswagen Jetta in the parking lot. Scott was a big guy, six-foot-four and 240 pounds, and he had to bend forward at the waist and duck his head to squeeze into the Jetta’s passenger seat. Hayden, who was six-two and 200 pounds, crammed himself into the backseat, pulling his knees up to his chest.
Abby started the car, pulled out of the complex, and made a couple of turns. In five minutes, she was driving into the parking lot of a strip center filled with small businesses—Fitness Unlimited, Shipley Do-Nuts, Weddings by Debbie, RadioShack, and Texas Mesquite Grill, among others. Abby parked the car about fifty yards from a Comerica Bank.
Scott grabbed a black garbage bag from the floorboard and took out two pairs of white painter’s coveralls, two white painter’s masks, two pairs of blue latex gloves, and two Airsoft pistols, which look like real guns but shoot only plastic pellets. In the tight confines of the Jetta, he and Hayden squirmed as they put on the disguises. Scott clipped a walkie-talkie to the lapel of his coveralls and handed another one to Abby.
It was nine-thirty. For the next thirty minutes or so, they sat in the Jetta, staring at the front door of the bank. Finally, Scott said it was time for them to make their move. Abby dropped her father and her brother off a few stores down from the bank and then drove around to an alley in the back. Just minutes later her dad’s voice crackled through her walkie-talkie.
“You there, Abby?” he said. “We’re going in.”
Robbing a bank is the most traditional of crimes. It’s a simple and direct act with an immediate payoff. All sorts of criminals have tried it—from professional stick-up men with long, violent pasts to drug addicts who just need money for a fix. Grandfathers have robbed banks, as have desperate housewives. “If you’re in law enforcement long enough, you’ll eventually come across bank robbers of every shape and size,” said Troy Nehls, the sheriff of Fort Bend County, which includes part of the Katy area. “But I’m not sure there has ever been a bank-robbing family. And then along comes Scott, Hayden, and Abby.”
By law enforcement standards, the Catts were as unlikely a set of bank robbers as one could imagine. They had no pressing financial issues and no obvious personal problems. Scott worked for a Houston energy company, helping to design conveyor belts that transport petroleum coke. Abby was a salesclerk at the Victoria’s Secret at the nearby Katy Mills Mall, and Hayden was hoping to start a career as a hotel concierge. (Beth Catt, Scott’s wife and the mother of Abby and Hayden, had died of breast cancer many years earlier.)
Around the Nottingham Place apartment complex, the Catts were regarded as friendly and harmless—“just like regular, everyday people,” one neighbor said. In the evening, the three of them could be seen sitting on their small patio, talking quietly among themselves. Before night fell, Scott often took their dog, a yellow Lab named Bella, on walks around the complex, circling the various apartment buildings.
Yet when it came to robbing banks, said Nehls, “they were very bold, very daring, and very risky. They’re lucky they didn’t get caught up in a shoot-out.”
The Catts pulled off only two robberies: the first being the Comerica heist, which netted them close to $70,000, and the second one coming two months later at First Community Credit Union, on Katy’s Cinco Ranch Boulevard, where they got away with $30,000. On the morning of November 9, five weeks after the second robbery, they were getting ready to rob a third Katy bank when Nehls’s detectives, who had conducted some nifty investigative work, arrived at Nottingham Place and arrested them.
Usually such a brief crime spree would merit little attention, but news of the Catts’ arrests instantly went viral, with their mug shots showing up in publications and on websites around the world under headlines like “All in the Family” and “A Family Affair.” Stories circulated that the elder Catt had started robbing banks a decade earlier in Oregon, where the family had previously lived, and that after he had moved to Texas he’d started using his son and daughter as his accomplices. Reporters did their best to find out why a father and his two children would turn to bank robbery, but the Catts weren’t talking. Then, late last year, after months of negotiations, the three of them agreed to plea deals, and they consented to let me interview them.
I was allowed to speak to only one Catt at a time. Abby was the first one escorted to the visiting room. Wearing a uniform with horizontal black-and-white stripes, she sat on a plastic chair, gave me a soft look, ducked her head, and finally said after a silence, “Sometimes I