A man suspected of robbing a Novato bank and possibly 10 other local banks is a Larkspur resident who did prison time for a 1978 art heist that turned into a kidnapping in Mill Valley.

Christopher Jay Wootton, 60, remained in police custody Friday at Marin General Hospital, where he is recovering from the shooting that led to his capture.

"I would never, never, never have suspected Christopher of allegedly doing this," his sister, Jennifer Wootton, said Friday. "Never in my life would I have suspected that."

Wootton, a maintenance worker at the Northgate mall in Terra Linda, is suspected of robbing the Bank of the West on Wednesday in downtown Novato. He was arrested after police chased him into Terra Linda, where he crashed his silver Saturn and tried to run.

Wootton allegedly pulled a gun, at which point he was shot by a Marin County sheriff's deputy.

While he remains in the hospital, authorities are working to build cases against him for an alleged yearlong streak of bank robberies in Greenbrae, San Rafael, Corte Madera, Novato, San Anselmo and Mill Valley. The suspected streak began on Dec. 12, 2012.

Authorities said those 11 robberies were committed by the same man in black gloves, dark-framed eyeglasses, dark clothing and a hat. In the early robberies, the man wore a brown knit cap with earflaps and tassels, but later he switched to a dark baseball cap.

Wootton lives at the Marin RV Park on Redwood Highway in east Larkspur, and his sister lives on the same street. They were born in Germany, adopted and raised in Marin.

She said she has not been allowed to visit her brother in the hospital and knows few details about the allegations.

Authorities served a search warrant on the suspect's green trailer home Thursday and left with bags of potential evidence. Wootton's pets -- two dogs and a tortoise -- were turned over to the Marin Humane Society until he can sign them over to family or adopters.

"He loves animals," his sister said. "He loves people. He's a hard worker. He'll do anything for anybody."

Wootton's nephew, Desmond Pavlac, said he has been a longtime mentor and positive role model.

"He's set many good examples in my life," said Pavlac, 29. "He's to thank for the (diving) business that I run right now and to thank for inspiring many of the passions I have today. He's been a really good guy to me and I'm going to do whatever I can to support him through what he's going through."

Wootton was expected to remain at Marin General Hospital until next week, said police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher. After that, he will be released to the county jail to face whatever charges might emerge from the various investigations.

The agencies investigating Wootton include the FBI, the Marin County Sheriff's Office, the Central Marin Police Authority, the Novato Police Department and the San Rafael Police Department. Authorities did not release Wootton's name until Friday.

According to court records, Wootton kidnapped a Mill Valley woman during a failed art theft conspiracy in 1978. Wootton and another man, Kenneth William Johnson, were casing a home on Dots Lane when they were spotted by a man who lived there.

Wootton and Johnson charged into the home and unsuccessfully tried to grab the man. Wootton then held a knife to the man's wife and demanded to know where they kept an oil painting.

The husband ran to a neighbor's house for help and took note of the license plate number on the suspects' vehicle. Wootton and Johnson took the woman hostage and drove off, but released her a short time later.

Johnson, a 23-year-old college student with no criminal record, confessed to authorities. He was eventually convicted by a jury.

Wootton, who had prior check fraud convictions, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and burglary. He spent nearly 12 years in state prison before being paroled in 1990, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

After his prison term ended, Wootton had two criminal cases filed against him in Marin Superior Court, but it was unclear whether he was convicted. They were in the early 1990s, and Marin court records show no filings since then.

When his mother died in 2005, Wootton received an inheritance and invested in a gas station and market in north Texas, according to a neighbor in Larkspur. The business failed, and he moved back to Greenbrae.

Wootton's jobs included driving groceries for Safeway and working as a maintenance worker at the Northgate mall. A mall spokeswoman said he worked for an outside contracting company, and a spokeswoman for that company declined to comment.

Wootten also performed small residential contracting projects for neighbors at the Marin RV Park. Residents described him as a conscientious worker.

"He was always looking for money," a neighbor said. "He never seemed to have enough money."

Contact Gary Klien via email at gklien@marinij.com or https://twitter.com/GaryKlien