Meet the American bank robber who quit crime to care in Portsmouth

Dean Kellogg’s life story is not one of which he is overwhelmingly proud.

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 10:05 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 1:55 pm

But it is his journey of resilience, acceptance and determination which is so interesting.

Born in Seattle, Washington, the 53-year-old who now lives in Portsmouth has spent time in prison, run with gangs and grown cannabis – none of which he is glad about.

He has written a book about his life, called Hayling Dad Comes Clean, following an article The News wrote about him after he ended up in court in 2015.

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Dean Kellogg with his wife, Shirley at their home in Portsmouth. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Through the book Dean hopes to change our generalised perceptions of criminals and details how they can turn their life around.

Dean says: ‘This book is embarrassing for me.

‘I haven’t created a cure for cancer and I’m not this great leader, but I want to make something for myself and be a good person.

‘It’s not something I am proud of but so many people have said my story is one that should be published.

Pictured outside of Panera Bread during one of Shirley's brief visits in September 2004, just after complete release from custody.

‘I want people to see me differently, the same way I told the judge I would change.’

Growing up in Seattle, Dean says his childhood is one he would rather forget.

‘I had a stereotypical dysfunctional childhood – beating, divorced parents and my siblings and I went into foster care,’ he explains.

‘My two little brothers were split from us and they ran out of foster houses for me so I moved to Tennessee with my aunt and uncle. They made it clear they didn’t like me or wanted to look after me.

Dean Kellogg and his wife Shirley on their wedding day on December 31, 2005.

‘I graduated high school though and joined the navy. But I got kicked out because of drink-related offences.

‘I had a series of failures and was troubled which led me to robbing a bank and spending 10 years in prison.’

The next decade of Dean’s life was spent behind bars being carefully watched, the majority served at Terre Haute maximum security prison, adjacent to the death row compound.

He says: ‘Life was tough but I found life in prison quite relaxing compared to what it was like on the outside.

‘I had been through two marriages; one divorced me while I was in the navy and the other sadly committed suicide while I was in prison.

‘It was the year 2000 and I realised I didn’t have anything in life. I had no family, no life, no job, no house – nothing.’

While serving time, Dean and his fellow inmates took advantage of a service called Inmates Classified. The system allows them to upload personal profiles – including pictures, information, contact details and their sentence – for members of the public to write to them.

But Dean never imagined the relationship he would develop as a result of writing letters.

He says: ‘Shirley had a bad bout of post-natal depression with her twin boys. She started writing to prisoners because she always wanted to be a counsellor.

‘She thought “what could go wrong writing to someone across the ocean?” Well, we got married,’ says Dean, smiling.

‘She was living at Hayling Island and we started off writing as friends. At first, she told me how she was happy and then one day a letter came which showed she wasn't.

‘She said she sat alone from 7am-10pm most days. She said she couldn’t go on living this way.

‘Every day for four years I had letters waiting for me. The inmates would say to the guards: “Just give Kellogg the post and he will hand it out when he’s done”.’

In 2003, Dean was moved to Butner Federal Prison, North Carolina, and Shirley flew out to meet him.

Dean smiles and says: ‘This was the first time I met Shirley. It was fantastic – she was gorgeous.

‘It was a beautiful compound and we got to take pictures together.

‘We just kept on writing and it became clear that we wanted to spend time together.’

A year later Dean was transferred to a ‘halfway house’ at Knoxville, Tennessee. These are residential re-entry centres which provide assistance to inmates who are nearing release, as well as offering employment counseling, job placement, financial management assistance, and other programmes.

It was there Dean took time to reflect on the downward spiral his life had taken.

He says: ‘I looked back and thought I had done something really traumatic. In prison, no one cares how bad you are. The prison guards aren’t scared of you.

‘Car chases and robberies seemed glamourous. But when I got back into society, I realised that was so wrong.’

In 2004, Dean’s 10-year prison sentence finally came to an end and he was ready to close that chapter of his life.

To kick off his new beginning, he asked Shirley to marry him while they were on holiday in Miami in November that year.

‘We knew we wanted to spend our lives together but I got down on one knee and gave her a ring,’ explains Dean.

‘Shirley moved to the USA with her two sons and daughter and we got married on New Year’s Eve in 2005.’

But life on the outside soon proved tough for Dean and his new family when Shirley became ill.

‘She kept on going to the doctors and they couldn’t find anything wrong with her but she wasn’t right,’ explains Dean. ‘In America, it was costing us so much in bills.

‘I felt like everything was falling apart.

‘We had started a business on Amazon through selling tanning lotions but then our payments got frozen.

‘We decided to move to Hayling Island and live in Shirley’s old house.’

Dean decided to say goodbye to his home country and start a new life in the UK. But Shirley’s illness was getting progressively worse and it all came to a climax in 2010.

Dean adds: ‘Shirley had a seizure and Haslar Hospital found that she had a brain tumour the size of a golf ball.

‘It had grown into a major sinus in her head and they managed to remove 98 per cent of it.

‘In the US, that would have cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars.

‘But life went downhill. I was helping Shirley recover and our relationship became babysitting because she couldn’t do anything for herself.

‘She wasn’t functional for two years so I could not work.

‘It got to the point where I thought we would have to sell the house because we couldn’t afford the mortgage payments.

‘We were in £40,000 worth of debt.’

During the summer of 2014, Dean reached a low point which ended with him sitting in the dock at Portsmouth Crown Court.

‘I got in with the wrong crowd. They knew my history. I’m a gardener so cannabis seemed easy to grow,’ explains Dean.

‘They wanted pictures so I sent them through Whatsapp but that had family sharing.

‘My step-son Robbie came downstairs and said “dad, that’s our loft and that’s cannabis”.

‘I came clean and had been rumbled.

‘I walked down to the police station and handed myself in. I told him it was time for me to live up to the consequences.’

Dean appeared in court on January 1, 2015, supported by his family.

Reported by The News at the time, addressing Kellogg, the judge Recorder Trevaskis said: ‘The circumstances in which this offence became known to the authorities are in my experience unique.

‘You initiated the investigation and you have in effect closed yourself down.’

The judge admired his remorse and how he handed himself in so Dean was given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.

He says: ‘We were so relieved when I wasn’t sent to prison again.

‘We held one another and I knew everything was going to be okay as long as we had each other.’

Dean says he has ‘not led to any stunning success’ since his 2014 arrest and conviction, but has stayed crime-free and plans to open a cat rescue with Shirley.

‘Despite my criminal conviction in the United Kingdom, my wife and I maintained our family, making good use of the judge's grace,’ says Dean.

‘We have raised three amazing children, one of which is studying her master's degree in Manchester after achieving her bachelor of psychology from Winchester University.’

‘We miss the easy way of life in the US but health care was too expensive. Shirley wouldn’t have lived.

‘I have worked in a couple of jobs but at this current point, the story rests with me enjoying residency in the United Kingdom and my wife recovering from her surgical procedures.’

And looking back, Dean is remorseful of his crimes.

‘People love a bank robbery story.

‘But in the films and stories, you don’t hear about the traumatised bank workers and the long-lasting impact you have had on an individual’s life.’

To order and read Dean’s book Hayling Dad Comes Clean, purchase the Kindle version for £3.27 or £9.80 for paperback on Amazon.