Sunday, July 27, 2008

Another Convenience Store Clerk Murdered

Convenience store clerks should get hazardous pay. Year in and year out, the job is ranked as one of the most dangerous in America. A few days ago, Linda Raulerson became another victim. While the killer hasn’t been caught, it’s safe to say that he’s a doper who has been in and out of the justice system time and again. Odds are he’s on parole and has committed robberies, and maybe other murders, in the past. You don’t need a Sherlock to figure out that our criminal justice system is broken. [Photo of Linda Raulerson]

Somehow, Columbia County, Florida has so far staunched the poisonous growth that has eaten the soul of the state. Most of the county is still rural even though I-75 and I-10 intersect its mid-section. Lake City is its largest town with about 11,000 inhabitants.

Thousands of convenience stores are scattered along the two interstate highways that criss-cross Florida from Jasper to Miami and from Jacksonville to Pensacola. These highways can be a death-trap for clerks and offer a quick getaway for predators.

On Tuesday, July 22, Linda Susan Raulerson, 56, was closing Joy American Foods. The convenience store is located about ten miles north of Lake City where U. S. Highway 441 intersects I-10. Just before 9:00 p.m., a white sedan pulled into a parking space near the front door and a man wearing a hoodie entered. Without hesitation, he walked toward the counter holding a pistol. Placing both hands on the gun, he raised it and fired. According to Columbia County Sheriff Bill Gootee, the first shot hit Raulerson in the arm. She screamed but maintained her composure.

“Open the drawer,” the shooter said. “Give it up.”

Raulerson did exactly that. The video shows her reaching into the cash register and handing the robber a handful of cash. “Gimme the money,” he yells. She then lifts the drawer and shows him it’s empty. Another shot is heard, then the shooter rushes outside and into a car. The car, believed to be a white 1993-1995 Buick Regal with a black stripe, leaves the parking lot.

A few minutes later, three customers entered the store and found the clerk lying in a pool of blood behind the counter.

In a press conference, Sheriff Gootee said, “This murder is especially heinous as Mrs. Raulerson did nothing but comply with the suspect and she was shot in a cold-blooded manner.”

If the robber came in off the interstate, as the sheriff believes, he could be anywhere. “It didn’t look like this was his first time,” Gootee said. “He did things like trying to conceal his face by pulling the hood lower, and he walked directly to the counter and showed her the gun. We definitely want to find this individual. He has already proven what he’s capable of doing.”

On July 25, the sheriff’s department took the unusual step of releasing the store video to the media. The family agreed with that decision since it might help catch the killer.

Raulerson had been married to her husband, John, for thirty-eight years. She had two children and five grandchildren. According to her obituary, Linda was a Lake City native who enjoyed raising Persian cats, fishing, painting, craft work, and cooking. She also had the unusual hobby of sewing period antebellum dresses for the annual Battle of Olustee Festival. She had won many awards for her dresses.

In addition to her job at the convenience store where she was murdered, Raulerson worked a second job at U. S. Cold Storage. “She loved the job [at Joy American Foods] and the people,” her husband John said. “Everyone who came in the store was family.”

It’s obvious that Linda Raulerson was a well-loved, productive member of her community.

If the killer is caught, he deserves a fast trip to the death chamber.

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