Store clerk murdered for no apparent reason
by Robert A. Waters
At 1:00 p.m., the call came in to the Merrillville, Indiana Police Department.
"We need an ambulance at Lucky Foods on Cleveland and 57th," the caller told the 911 dispatcher. "Someone just robbed the store and the woman inside is bleeding."
"Where’s the suspect?"
"We don’t know. He ran."
Within minutes, police swarmed the store. They found Judi Simpson-Beaver lying near death behind the counter. Outside, witnesses said they saw a man run from the store and get into an older model brown Oldsmobile with a maroon-colored hood. The car had a temporary Indiana plate.
The clerk died on the floor in a pool of blood.
When detectives viewed the store’s surveillance video, they seemed shocked by the senselessness of the crime.
The film showed a man enter the store wearing a purple hoodie and a white Jason mask. The jacket had the logo, "Royal Estoc Empire," written across the back. Waving a gun, the thug jumped over the counter, and retrieved two cash register trays filled with money. Then the robber headed for the door.
Had the story ended there, it would have been just another "grab the money and run" heist. But, almost as an afterthought, the thief suddenly turned and fired a shot at Simpson-Beaver. Hit in the chest, she collapsed behind the counter. The gunman then walked behind the counter, stood over the wounded clerk, and fired again. Point-blank, to the head.
Witnesses told investigators that coins from the money trays spilled onto the sidewalk as the shooter fled.
Such a brutal, unnecessary crime enraged the public. There seemed to be no reason for it. Simpson-Beaver had complied with every demand, handing over the money drawers. With a mask covering his face, the clerk would have been unable to identify the robber.
Detectives quickly released the video to local media. Two days later, cops announced an arrest.
Jeremy Kale Blue lived two blocks away from the store. He drove a car similar to the one seen leaving the area. A witness said she recognized him when he pulled his mask up as he fled. Police charged Blue with three counts: murder; murder in the perpetration of a robbery; and robbery.
Fifteen minutes before the crime occurred, the surveillance video shows two other men enter the store, apparently casing it. Investigators still have not identified these men. A $5,000 reward has been issued for information leading to their capture.
Judi Simpson-Beaver, described as having a strong Christian faith, was helping to raise her grandson while one of her two sons served in Afghanistan.
Yet another senseless murder. Yet another grieving family. Yet another community searching for answers.
The killer deserves no mercy.
NOTE: Jeremy Blue has not been convicted of any crime. So far, investigators haven’t found the gun or jacket used in the murder. Family members insist that he was home all day.