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String of armed robberies hit Panhandle

March 13, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A robbery at an Exxon service station and convenience store here Wednesday marked the sixth hold-up of a business in the Eastern Panhandle since December, according to police.

Police said convenience stores are easy targets for criminals because store workers are not armed, and there are usually no security guards in the buildings.

Wednesday's robbery occurred when a man walked into the Exxon service station and convenience store just off the Queen Street exit of Interstate 81 and demanded cash, police said.

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The man, who did not show a weapon, made off with about $60, police said.

On Feb. 25, an armed man stole money from the 7-Eleven store along W.Va. 9 in Baker Heights after demanding money from a clerk. On Jan. 14, three people, one of whom was armed, robbed Wright's One Stop convenience store at 1203 North Queen Street, police said.

Martinsburg Police made several arrests in that holdup.

In Jefferson County, the Golden Corral Family Steak House along U.S. 340 north was robbed Jan. 26 and the Pizza Hut on East Washington Street near Charles Town was robbed Feb. 14, police said.

So far, police said they have no reason to believe the robberies are related.

Richard Aikens, owner of the Econo Lodge motel just off the Spring Mills exit of I-81, said suspects can get on the interstate quickly after robbing a business and be out of the area by the time police arrive.

Aikens said he believes the two men who robbed his motel Dec. 8 parked along I-81 and walked a short distance to the motel. After the hold-up, Aikens said he saw footprints in the snow that led from the interstate to the motel.

During the robbery, the two men ripped a telephone console out of the motel office in an apparent attempt to keep motel employees from calling for help, Aikens said.

"I hope it stays rare," said Aikens, referring to the chances for further robberies in the area. "But it seems like we're getting more crime than we used to have."

John Hendricks said he has never had any trouble at his Golden Corral Family Steak House in the 18 years the restaurant has been open. Then on Jan. 26, a man who came in to pick-up a takeout order opened his coat and showed an employee a gun tucked in his clothing.

"The lady just emptied the cash drawer," said Jefferson County Sheriff William Senseney.

Hendricks said he is now more careful about security in the Charles Town Plaza restaurant, and he keeps less money in the register.

"It's a shame, but you have to," said Hendricks.

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