New York Post
John Doyle and Hasani Gittens
August 23, 2006
The brother and sister charged with a series of bank robberies in Manhattan have a strange and troubled history, The Post has learned.
Joe Kirby, 23, and his sister, Shemini, 20, told friends that they spent their formative years being psychologically abused in a cult in the Catskills community of Monticello, where their mother and another brother live.
“I don’t know him to be a bad person. I don’t know him to be a thief or anything like that. I just know he has a serious drug problem,” said a pal.
The friend of Joe Kirby said the alleged bank robber referred to the strange “hyper-religious” group he grew up in only as “the Community” – and said it kept him in line by dolling out punishments like being locked in a closet or forced to stand naked in front of a group of adults.
“It was very Jim Jones, “hyper-religious kind of thing,” the friend said. “Joey called it a cult. He was raised in it; he was abused in it. Just extreme situations…nothing sexual, just humiliation.” Joe and Shemini Kirby escaped when they were adolescents and were put into foster care, the pal said.
He said when they were teenagers, Joe started coming to New York City to go clubbing and got involved in the underground drug scene.
Then, when he had to pay for his expensive habit, Kirby hit rock bottom.
“For the last 18 months to two years, he has been working as a male prostitute, selling himself, sometimes for a very low amount of cash, to support his drug addiction,” the friend lamented.
In Monticello, a former friend of Shemini, who wanted only her first name used, said the sister, who was arrested upstate in January for possession of crack, was just as disturbed.
“She had a lot of issues. She’s been in and out of foster homes,” said Vivi, 26. “She had a daughter that was 8 weeks old that was taken away last year. She was just young and looking for attention.”
But Vivi added, “She’s not going to rob no bank. Every once in a while, she might go to Walmart and ‘pick up’ a chap stick, but she didn’t have the mentality to rob a bank.”
Manhattan prosecutors disagree. They’ve charged the siblings with three counts of robbery each, for allegedly hitting an Independence Savings Bank on East 86th on Aug 7, a North Fork Bank on Broadway on Aug 10, and a Commerce Bank on Third Avenue on Aug 15. They were arraigned separately last night.
Shemini, who was clad in an orange jacket, white shirt and jeans, sobbed hysterically before making her court appearance. She was held in lieu of $50,000 bail.