THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT
                 Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: TUESDAY, June 7, 1994                    TAG: 9406070332 
DATELINE: 940607                                 LENGTH: WINDSOR 


{LEAD} A stenciled message on the boarded-up Be-Lo supermarket near downtown Windsor warns that trespassers will be prosecuted.

But at least one violator, an armed robber who killed three employees and wounded two others when the store was still open, continues to elude authorities one year after committing the most notorious murder case in Bertie County history.

{REST} On Monday, 250 of the victims' family and friends gathered at the now-abandoned store to mark the anniversary and renew hope that the killer will soon be caught.

``We will never give up until we have this person in our custody,'' said Windsor Police Chief Freddie Bowen during the 20-minute ceremony.

Police are searching for a tall, slender, black man who hid in the store until it closed June 6, 1993, and shot or stabbed five of six employees who had been bound and stacked in a backroom.

The gunman fled with about $3,000 and is believed to have an accomplice who drove a getaway car.

Among those killed was Grover Lee ``Bud'' Cecil Jr., 48, of Ayden, who'd been the Be-Lo store manager in Windsor for eight months.

It was Cecil's family, as well as the families of store clerk Joyce Coburn Reason, 36, and cleaning crewman Johnnie Rankins, 48, who initiated Monday's memorial.

``It hurts,'' said Shannon Cecil, 20, a Campbell University student whose father was killed. ``There are so many questions. Why this town? Why this store? How did he chose which three to kill? Why didn't he just take the money and leave?''

Local, state and federal police still are asking the same questions.

``It's very unusual that it hasn't been solved because there really has been a lot of effort put into this,'' said Wallace Perry, sheriff of Bertie County.

Based on an FBI psychological profile, police believe the murderer confessed to someone, probably a woman. ``She's probably living with him, and she's in danger,'' Perry said. The crimes have generated a $30,000 reward and were publicized on television's ``America's Most Wanted.'' The State Bureau of Investigation is still working full-time on the case.

``I don't know of a single case in northeastern North Carolina where we have dedicated more interest and resources,'' said Bill Godley, a special agent in charge of the SBI's Greenville District who attended Monday's service.

Godley and other law officials hope the memorial will spark new interest in the case.

For others in this town of 2,100, located about 30 miles west of Edenton, the service provided a second chance to publicly grieve.

``Birthdays come and birthdays go by, and you don't even want to celebrate because their father's not here,'' said Cecil's wife, Karen.

The townsfolk who gathered around family members sitting in front of the store, adorned with yellow ribbons and wreaths, ranged from preschoolers to senior citizens. Many cried during the service.

``We wanted to let the families know that we are in support of them,'' said Mary Cherry, who had attended Bertie High School with Reason. Cherry helped bring about 40 preschoolers from Kiddie World day care center to the ceremony.

Also paying respects was Dwayne Gilliam, an assistant manager at a Hertford Be-Lo who was held up in a similar robbery last month.

``It could very well have been my memorial service. I'm just very thankful,'' said Gilliam, who was on vacation but wore his Be-Lo name tag to the gathering. He had worked at the Windsor store in 1987.

Like the Bertie County cases, the gunman hid in the Hertford grocery store until closing and bound Gilliam and a stock worker with duct tape and dog leashes. The assailant escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash.

The three survivors of the Windsor shootings (one escaped unharmed) did not attend Monday's service. ``They're kind of afraid to come to something like this,'' Perry said.

Others say they live in constant fear.

``We never locked our home. We never locked our car before,'' Karen Cecil said. ``I'm looking behind my shoulder at all times, all times.''

``It's had the town in shock, and it's still in shock,'' Perry said. ``Merchants here are still nervous. Customers are very nervous.

``It's always on their mind. They'll see someone who looks like the man in a restaurant, and they'll give us a call.''

by CNB