Convenient Excuses

Oct 9, 2009 - by Bonnie Bobit - 0 Comments

The deadly occupation of convenience store employee and how the convenience store industry is fighting to prevent the implementation of federal rules that would make those jobs safer.

by Bonnie Bobit

Other than the job of police officer, which job category would you say is most often subject to homicide in the United States? Postal worker? Private detective? Bounty hunter? Abortion clinic staff? Liquor store workers? By far the most dangerous job in the United States is, and has been for years, that of those who work in convenience stores at night.

Ten months ago, Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman released recommendations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that could significantly reduce the number of employees murdered on the job during robberies and other violent acts. The report, in citing that after-dark convenience store workers were at the greatest risk of being murdered during robberies and other violent acts, included recommendations that directly addressed what convenience store owners could do to better protect their employees from assault. In particular, the report advanced a series of preventative measures, chiefly physical improvements and alterations to the stores.

Not surprisingly, the convenience store owners immediately translated these improvements into added overhead costs and balked at the report. Quickly, public relations reps from the major convenience store chains called a press conference to say that OSHA's recommendations were premature, not practical, and would ruin customer relationships.

I can't help but wonder just how "premature" these recommendations are … after all, my most recent studies reveal that nearly 28% of all death row inmates in the United States have been involved in convenience store robberies, abductions, and/or murders. On the contrary, it appears that these recommendations are long overdue and should be mandatory rather than optional.

Consider the following sampling:

On July 19, 1996, after yelling racial slurs to a group of people at a convenience store in Durant, Okla., four-time convicted felon, Ernest Eugene Phillips, stabbed and killed Roderick Jason McFail.

On May 18, 1996, Douglas Roberts robbed a convenience store in San Antonio, Texas, and kidnapped store clerk, Jerry Velez. Roberts forced Velez to give him the keys to his car, which Roberts drove to a remote area. Valez was stabbed and run over with his own car before he died.

On Feb. 26, 1995, Billy Don Alverson robbed a convenience store in Tulsa, Okla., where his accomplice, Michael Wilson, had previously worked. During the robbery, Alverson beat 30-year-old store clerk Richard Yost with a baseball bat for over two minutes, causing injury to almost every part of his body and killing him.

In March 1995, Henry D. Dawson killed Nevada convenience store clerk, Leslie Gail Shepard, who resisted his sexual advances.

Dr. Elizabeth Peavy, a Houston dentist, stopped at a convenience store on her way home on May 15, 1994. As she was leaving the store, Tony Tyrone Dixon and several accomplices stopped her and demanded her car keys. When she refused, Dixon shot her and left the scene. A few minutes later, Dixon returned, shot Peavy three more times and finally did steal her car.

After escaping from a North Carolina prison, Richard Eugene Hamilton and Anthony Floyd Wainwright, killed Carmen Gayheart, a 23-year-old nursing student. Gayheart was last seen on April 27, 1994, when she stopped at a convenience store.

On Aug. 15, 1992, Debra Lewis, a 27-year-old single mother, was working at a convenience store in Mobile, Ala., when drifter Samuel Lee Ivery decapitated Lewis’ head before robbing the store. Ivery had recently been released from a California mental facility.

In April 1992, Chad Alan Lee entered the AM-PM mini-market on 19th Avenue in Phoenix with the intent to rob the store and leave no witnesses. Lee repeatedly shot clerk Harold Drury, then dismantled the revolver and threw it in a dumpster across the street.

On March 15, 1992, Pete Carl Rogovich robbed a Phoenix convenience store, killing Tekleberhan Meskel Manna.

On Dec. 27, 1989, Eric John King shot and killed Phoenix Short Stop clerk Ron Barman and security guard Richard Butts. Witnesses saw King return to the scene to wipe off the holster of Butts' gun that he used to kill both men.

On May 19, 1989, Clinton Lee Spencer hooked up with Shandora Johnson-Marrow and Stacy Moore at a Circle-K in Mesa, Ariz. Later that night, Spencer sexually assaulted Johnson-Marrow, stabbed her twice, and then tried to burn her body with liquid accelerant.

In 1988, Edward Bennett, 19, pulled out a .45-caliber handgun and shot a Las Vegas convenience store clerk, 21-year-old Michelle Moore, in the face, killing her instantly. He then picked up Moore’s head and marveled in detached wonderment that he could see the floor through the bullet hole.

On Sept. 29, 1986, while on parole from a life sentence for killing his wife a decade earlier, Michael Alan Lawrence, 31, murdered Gail Tyree. The 37-year-old convenience store clerk was found in the storage room of the store with two bullet holes in the back of her head. Lawrence stole $58 from the Florida store.

On Jan. 27, 1986, Shep Wilson Jr. kidnapped Monica Denise Cook, 20, from a convenience store in Sylacauga, Ala. Cook was raped and beaten before Wilson strangled her to death. Wilson had an extensive adult criminal record dating back to 1975 and was on parole for rape at the time of the crime.

On Sept. 8, 1985, Sean R. Sellers shot and killed a 36-year-old convenience store clerk in Oklahoma. Sellers later confessed that the motive was to see how it felt to kill someone.

In 1983, Johnny Watkins Jr. shot Betty Jean Barker four times during a convenience store robbery that netted him $89.89. Eleven days later, Watkins used the same gun to shoot and kill Carl Douglas Buchanan during another convenience store robbery that got him $34.74.

Self-proclaimed "mad dog killer," Marion Albert Pruett, abducted and killed Arkansas convenience store clerk Bobbie Jean Robertson during an October 1981 robbery. Pruett also killed at least four other people in Mississippi, Florida, Colorado, and New Mexico.

In 1981, after robbing a California convenience store of $33, Richard Boyde Jr. kidnapped store clerk and part-time wrestling coach Dickie Lee Gibson, shooting him three times in a nearby orange grove.

On Jan. 29, 1981, Suzanne Rossetti locked herself out of her car at a Phoenix convenience store. As Rossetti struggled to regain access, two passersby, Jesse James Gillies and Mike Logan, stopped to help her get the car open. To show her gratitude, Rossetti offered them a ride. Once in the car, the two men abducted her and repeatedly raped her while bashing her in the head with rocks. They ultimately pushed Rossetti from a cliff as she begged for mercy.

On Feb. 10, 1980, during a Galveston, Texas, robbery that netted Warren Bridge and Joseph Costa $24, Bridge shot 62-year-old Stop & Go clerk Waler Rose four times with a .38-caliber pistol.

On Jan. 17, 1980, Harold McQueen Jr. and an accomplice shot a Madison County, Ky., convenience store clerk who died two hours later. McQueen had extensive juvenile and adult criminal records, a history of drug abuse, and hospitalization

Convenience store owner, Roger Dennis Tackett worked on June 17, 1979, so that he would not have to work the following day ~ on Fathers' Day. Wilber May and former Baptist minister Van Roosevelt Solomon shot Tackett a total of five times before he died.

During a bloody crime spree on Feb. 22, 1979, two ex-cons, Ronald Woomer and Eugene Skaar, robbed a South Carolina mini-mall, then abducted two female employees. Della Louis Sellers was shot and killed, and Wanda Summers was shot ~ disfigured for life.

During a 1978 robbery, Robert A. Preston kidnapped 46-year-old convenience store clerk Earline Walker. Walker’s mutilated body was later found about a mile away from the store in a field.

Nursing student, Teresa Carol Allen of Cochran, Ga., was working part time in a convenience store to help put herself through college. While Allen was working on Dec. 12, 1976, Roosevelt Green and Carzell Moore robbed the store of $466. Allen’s body was found two days later. She had been raped, shot in the head, and left to die.

On Nov. 21, 1975, federal parolee Thomas Whisenhant shot and killed Mobile County, Ala., Compact Food Store clerk Patricia Hitt. Six months later, Whisenhant raped, mutilated, and murdered Venora Hyatt after kidnapping her from a 7-Eleven food store in the same area. Seven months later, Whisenhant raped and killed another Mobile County convenience store clerk, Cheryl Gazzier Payton.

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