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Published: Thursday, 8/21/2008

16 slain in holdups at stations, stores in area since '83

BY LAREN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Police tape surrounds the scene at the BP gas station at Dorr Street and Secor Road, where clerk Matthew Dugan was killed. Police tape surrounds the scene at the BP gas station at Dorr Street and Secor Road, where clerk Matthew Dugan was killed.
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For Diane Betcher, the images replayed on television last week of police caution tape surrounding a West Toledo gas station where a clerk was fatally shot were all too familiar.

Ms. Betcher is the widow of Kenneth Betcher, killed 16 years ago during a similar robbery at a Clark Oil gas station in South Toledo. His murder is unsolved.

"It raised the hair on my arms," she said. "It was too close to home."

But for a brief moment, Ms. Betcher had hope.

She wondered if the people responsible for the robbery Aug. 13 at the BP at 3306 Dorr St. could have been involved in her husband's slaying.

But when police announced later they had arrested three male suspects, ages 22, 18, and 17, she knew that wasn't possible.

Her husband of almost nine years was killed outside the gas station at 3070 Airport Hwy., April 17, 1992, shortly after he arrived about 6 a.m. to open the business. The couple's two children, Christina and Stephen, were 7 and 5.

There have been more than a dozen people killed in the last three decades in Toledo and its surrounding area during robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, and fast-food restaurants. Additional people have been killed during robberies at their own businesses, including a hobby shop, a grocery store, and a downtown restaurant.

In the 1992 incident, police believe the assailant wanted to rob Mr. Betcher, prompting him to hit an alarm and duck into a back room to hide. The robber used a crowbar to pry the door and when he got it open, Mr. Betcher ran past him.

The robber chased Mr. Betcher and shot him in the head, getting away without any money.

In the most recent incident, police said Anthony Belton, 22, walked into the BP at the corner of Dorr and Secor roads about 7 a.m., about an hour after clerk Matthew Dugan, 34, had unlocked the doors.

Mr. Belton had been inside the store two previous times that morning. Police believe he was waiting for other customers to leave the store.

The third time he entered, Mr. Belton stopped at the counter, walked back to a cooler to grab a drink, returned to the counter, pulled out a gun, and demanded money, police said.

Mr. Dugan, who had worked at BP only two months, handed the assailant an undetermined amount of cash and then was ordered to get the robber telephone calling cards from behind the counter.

When Mr. Dugan turned around to get them, police said, Mr. Belton shot him once in the back of the head and fled. Mr. Dugan's body was found about

7:45 a.m. when a woman stopped in the store to buy cigarettes.

Mr. Belton of 934 Cuthbert Rd. and Dymon Bolton, 18, of 623 Ranch Drive, who police believe drove the getaway vehicle, were arrested about 14 hours after the shooting.

Mr. Belton was charged with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, both with gun specifications; Mr. Bolton was charged with aggravated robbery with a gun specification. Both remain in the Lucas County jail.

A third suspect, Tony Bivens, 17, of 1024 Ranch, who police said was a passenger in the getaway vehicle, turned himself in to police Friday. He was charged with aggravated robbery with a gun specification. A motion has been filed in Lucas County Juvenile Court to try the Bivens youth as an adult.

Mark Betcher, one of Mr. Betcher's older brothers, said he was saddened when he learned of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Dugan's death.

"It should have just never happened," he said of the murder at BP. "It's unfortunate that the human race does this to each other."

Toledo police Capt. Ray Carroll, a member of the department for 31 years, agreed.

He said incidents such as the recent shooting at BP and the 1996 slaying of an 18-year-old KFC restaurant employee are heinous. In both cases, the victims did everything they were supposed to and still were killed.

"When you think about it, it makes me sick," he said.

Misty Fisher was a senior at Clay High School in 1996 when she was killed while working at the KFC restaurant on South Avenue to save money to go to college to become an accountant.

A robber ran into the restaurant about 8:20 p.m. April 12, jumped over the counter, struck a male employee in the head, and demanded money, police said.

Miss Fisher was shot in the back of the head as she unsuccessfully tried to open a safe for the shooter, police said. Jamie Madrigal and Chris Cathcart were convicted for their roles in Miss Fisher's death.

Gary Aumiller, executive director of the Society of Police and Criminal Psychology, said robberies at gas stations and convenience stores across the country occur frequently because the establishments are easy targets. People can get in and out very quickly, he said.

And while robbers normally carry loaded guns with them, they often use them for protection rather than for deadly force. "Usually they hold them up at gunpoint and get out of there," Mr. Aumiller said.

Toledo police Sgt. Tim Noble estimated there are about 100 such holdups in the city each year, many involving some type of weapon.

The assailants often take with them a gun and wear a mask or have a hood pulled down over their face to conceal their identity, Sergeant Noble said.

"There's a certain degree of planning that goes into those robberies," he said.

According to the most recent data available from the National Association of Convenience Stores, robberies at convenience stores increased 19 percent from 2000 to 2001 while homicides decreased 27 percent.

Jeff Lenard, NACS spokesman, said the trade group, which represents retailers and suppliers, encourages convenience store employees to comply with suspects' demands, and urges them to treat robbers like their best customer.

"Give them what they want and get them out of the store fast," Mr. Lenard said.

A study conducted in 1998 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration showed that nearly half of all workplace homicides occur in retail.

Before Mr. Dugan's slaying, the last fatal convenience-store shooting in Toledo was June 17, 2005, when two women were shot and killed at Barney's Convenient Mart, 5821 North Detroit Ave.

Susan Cox, 43, of Washington Township and her co-worker, Shantel Hendrix, 27, of Bedford Township, were shot multiple times by Ms. Cox's estranged husband, Archie, 45. He then turned the gun on himself.

It is believed to be the only convenience-store shooting in the area related to domestic violence.

In January, 2004, Misada Shalan, 47, was killed while she sat behind a counter at Tamara's Carryout, 328 Columbus St.

Authorities said robber Pedro Diaz fired a handgun three times into the ceiling, apparently startling Ronald Whitfield, an accomplice, who fired an assault rifle at the victim's head.

Whitfield, 23, was convicted in 2004 of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery; Diaz, 30, was convicted of murder and aggravated robbery in 2005, and Yvan Garcia, driver of their getaway vehicle, was convicted last month of complicity to commit murder.

During a week-long crime spree in April, 2000, John Michael Robinson killed two women working alone at carryouts.

Crystal Pierson, 20, was shot in the head April 21, 2000, during a robbery at Two Z's Drive Thru in Oak Harbor. Three days later, Robinson shot Denise Clink, 42, at Gene's Drive-Thru near Green Springs. Robinson was captured more than a week later at a Houston hotel after a nationwide manhunt.

In 1993, there was a string of unrelated convenience-store killings in Toledo.

The first occurred Oct. 2, when two gunmen entered Target Market, 1941 Dorr St. The owner, Mouayad Gammo, pleaded with the robbers not to shoot an employee just before he was shot to death. The employee, Athil Sersam, 19, was shot in the mouth but survived.

Sohail Darwish, 29, was shot during a robbery May 26 at Woodstock Carryout, the central-city convenience store he owned. Mr. Darwish had a 1-year-old daughter and his wife, Charlotte, was expecting their second child when he was killed.

Tim Hasan was killed Nov. 6 during a robbery at his family's store, Lee's Food Market, 3378 Monroe St. Mr. Hasan, 22, cooperated with three male juveniles who walked into the store and demanded money. The robbers fled with $300.

Mr. Hasan's sister, Jumana Hasan, who attended all the court proceedings in the case, sought to get laws toughened for juvenile criminals. She campaigned for tougher penalties, including the death penalty for juveniles as well as stronger gun-control laws and educational programs.

"I'm getting sick of it and I think the public is," she said during a sentencing in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in May, 1994, for Claude Day, 17, who admitted to gunning down Mr. Hasan. "Every time you turn on the television, there's another juvenile offender murdering someone. And if it's not murder, it's rape."

Teenagers Derrick Day and Jarmon Bryant were also convicted.

Although several years have passed since Ms. Betcher's husband was killed, she said there isn't a day she doesn't think about it.

"It's never been the same since," she said.

Contact Laren Weber at:

lweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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