9 On Your Side Investigates: The Be-Lo Murders - WNCT

9 On Your Side Investigates: The Be-Lo Murders

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WINDSOR, N.C. -

Investigators call it one of the worst cases in Eastern North Carolina History.

It's been almost 20 years since a man gunned down six people in the Be-Lo Grocery store in Windsor.

June 6, 1993.

It's a day that changed the small town of Windsor forever. The day of the Be-Lo murders.

Now retired Police Chief Rodney Hoggard, remembers it like it was yesterday.

"What happened in there?" asked 9 On Your Side's Kristen Hunter.

"The manager and the cashier at the Be-Lo had closed the store. A cleaning crew had come in to clean up the store, do the floors and that type of stuff and during that time somebody came in the store, evidently had hid in the store," said Hoggard.

The man told employees he was a police officer who had been fired, but investigators now believe that to be untrue. He took the 6 people to the back of the store, bound them with duct tape and forced them to the floor in piles.

"Three by three, two on top of each other. And his intentions were to shoot through the stack. Save ammo," said Hoggard.

Detectives believe the man fired his gun until he ran out of ammunition. That's when they say he went to the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife, slashing one of the victim's throats and stabbing him so hard the knife broke off in his back.

"He just went about it methodically. He knew his purpose and he did it," said Hoggard.

The stranger walked into the darkness, leaving everyone to die.

Store cashier, Joyce Reason, was stacked on top of cleaning crew member, Tony Welch. They both had been shot. Welch somehow mustered the strength to get up.

"He said there was so much blood, he said his hands were tired, their hands were tied and he said that his hands came loose because of all the blood. And he crawled out from under her to go to the front of the store and that's when he called 9-1-1," Welch's wife told 9 on your side in a 2006 interview.

Welch survived the attack but later lost his battle with cancer in 2005. Two other people survived. One was miraculously unharmed.

Store manager, Bud Cecil, cashier, Joyce Reason, and cleaning crew member, Johnnie Rankins were not so lucky.

Cecil's children still remember the day police knocked on their door.

"It's a feeling of disbelief and you know you think they made a mistake. That it's not your family that's being affected," said Cecil's son, Michael.

"I just wish he was coming home and I know he's not," said his daughter, Jenny.

"There are details I'd like to forget," said daughter, Shannon Cecil.

They are details Cecil's children can't forget; especially with a killer still on the loose. There were surveillance cameras in the store, but they didn't work.

After the attack, Tony Welch was able to help investigators create a composite sketch.  Almost 20 years later, Windsor Police Lt. Ricky Morris, has now taken over the case along with the SBI.

"Are you still looking into leads?" asked Hunter.

"Oh yeah, constantly. We get tips, we get leads, possible suspects all the time. You may get one a year, two a year. You may get 5 a year and they're always investigated. As soon as we get them we jump on it," said Lt. Morris.

Those leads have taken investigators all over the country; most recently in 2003 to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Be-Lo building is now a community college campus. Just inside the door, there's a plaque dedicated to those who died.

There's still an unsettled feeling for investigators, survivors and families.

I would just like to know why? Why would you do that? You got what you wanted. Why did you have to rip apart so many lives?" said Shannon.

"You don't realize how hard it is on the family. 20 years later for me is it easier? No. I'll never forget and for me, I'll never forgive, I honestly won't. You destroyed my family," said Jenny.

"I just retired a couple of days ago and one of the, I guess the only regret I have...this," said Hoggard.

"Why do you say it's a regret?" asked Hunter.

"Couldn't solve it."

"But there's still hope?"

"Yeah."

Investigators say the killer took a cloth shopping bag, $3,000 in cash and the store keys. Those items have never been recovered.

There's a $30,000 dollar reward for anything with information that leads to an arrest.

If you have information about this case, call the Windsor Police Department (252) 794-3111.  

If you have information about this case or any unsolved case in North Carolina, please contact the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation by email SBI Operations Center or by phone (800) 334-3000.

 

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