Danville man was working in Lexington store during robbery, murder

September 15, 2004|HERB BROCK

LEXINGTON - In his more than a decade as an employee of the Dairy Mart convenience store chain, James Wiechart of Danville has been held up but never hurt. That changed Tuesday when Wiechart, now a Dairy Mart assistant district manager, was at a Lexington store that became the scene of a robbery and murder.

Wiechart, 34, was at the Dairy Mart at 285 East New Circle Road helping the staff with a new computer system when, shortly after noon, a man brandishing a shotgun entered the store and demanded cash. The gunman forced Wiechart, store clerk Ashley L. Cason and a male customer into a cooler and then began shooting.

"In my opinion, he was going to execute all three of us," Wiechart said in a phone interview this morning from his Harrodsburg Road home.

Cason, 22, of Lexington, was shot and critically wounded. She later died at the University of Kentucky hospital.


Wiechart was struck in the stomach by at least two shotgun pellets but he and the male customer, who was not hit, were able to escape through the cooler's back door. Wiechart was treated at the University of Kentucky Regional Medical Center emergency room and released.

"A couple of pieces of buckshot from the guy's shotgun hit my abdomen. I'm a little sore but I'm fine," he said.

An undisclosed amount of money was taken from the store and property also was taken from Wiechart and the male customer, according to Lt. James Curless with the Lexington Police Department.

Police make arrest

On Tuesday evening, Darryl D. Burrell, 28, of Lexington, was arrested at his home at 564 Aniston Drive and charged with robbery, murder and several other crimes in connection with the case, said Curless. Burrell's arrest came after Lexington police detectives linked him to two outstanding traffic warrants from the Louisville Metro Police Department. In addition to the two warrants from Louisville, Lexington police came to Burrell's residence with a search warrant.

Burrell, who had been living in Lexington for a short period of time, was charged with murder, attempted murder, three counts of first-degree robbery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, first-degree assault, and tampering with physical evidence, Curless said.

Burrell remained today at the Fayette County Detention Center.

Police had used a search dog to hunt for the suspect, who was caught on video tape by the store's security camera. The surveillance tape shows a black male with a thin build, wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a gray sweatshirt and carrying a rifle, pointed at the floor.

Meanwhile, Wiechart said he is saddened by Cason's death but pleased that Lexington police were able to quickly take a suspect into custody.

"Ashley was a great kid. She had great (management) potential," he said. "My sympathy goes out to her family."

Regarding the arrest, Wiechart said, "I am very pleased that the suspect was quickly apprehended by the Lexington police. Detectives and officers handled the matter professionally as well as expeditiously."

Wiechart has been with Dairy Mart for 13 years and has managed several stores, including two in Danville. He had managed the Dairy Marts on Lexington and Hustonville roads before they were bought by another company a couple of years ago.

"I have been robbed before but this was the first time I ever witnessed or been a part of any shooting. I'm feel so bad for Ashley and her family. I was just fortunate enough to come home to my family," said Wiechart, a husband, father of a son and a foster parent.

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