NEWS- Money safe? Wood Grill killing highlights danger
In the month since a local restaurant employee was robbed and her husband mortally wounded in a late night robbery, area business owners have examined their own policies for handling cash and keeping employees safe. Some say the tragedy at the Wood Grill Buffet never should have happened.
"I would never allow my people at any time to carry money after the store closes unless they had some type of security," says Tony LaBua, owner of Chap's Ice Cream on the Downtown Mall.
In the past 22 years, Chap's has been robbed twice, says LaBua, who says he has different employees do money drops at random times during the day to prevent targeting by would-be thieves.
"There's no habit, no routine," he says. "You can't say, I know at 1pm we're going to hit Chap's over the head."
Such may not have been the case at Wood Grill, where night manager Sandra Godsey, accompanied by her husband, William "Billy" Godsey, reportedly would leave work in the wee hours with the day's cash proceeds. Wood Grill owner William Proffitt did not return the Hook's repeated calls, but according to a May 1 report in the Daily Progress, since the murder, Proffitt has begun hiring an armored car to retrieve the cash rather than putting other employees at risk. The Godseys, of Schuyler, had no listed number, and Sandra Godsey could not be reached for comment.
According to Albemarle County police, the couple was walking across the parking lot at approximately 1:30 on the morning of April 12 when two men wearing ski masks approached the couple, knocked Sandra to the ground and beat 48-year-old Billy in the head and body with a blunt instrument. On April 24, almost two weeks after the attack, Billy Godsey died of his injuries at UVA medical center, becoming Albemarle's first homicide of 2007.
Police have released little information about the assailants– one is described as tall and skinny, the other as short and stocky. Their race is unknown, and they left the scene in a dark colored small sedan. No arrests have been made in that case, according to County Police Lieutenant Greg Jenkins, who says the investigation is ongoing.
Jenkins says business owners should consider having armored cars pick up money and having armed guards accompany any employees who transport cash.
That's how money's handled at the Charlottesville Pavilion, where the majority of beer is purchased with cash, meaning thousands of dollars end up in the drawers. Pavilion manager Kirby Hutto says armed Charlottesville Police stand nearby and accompany employees or volunteers as they take cash off the premises. Hutto says they try to do several cash transports per show to keep the amount from getting too high.
The real solution, he says, is to minimize how much cash comes in. Hutto says the Pavilion has "quietly" begun accepting debit and credit cards for beer tickets, and he hopes in the near future to get to the point where 70 to 80 percent of business is plastic so that "the whole exposure of cash is gone."
At Miller's restaurant, daytime manager Elizabeth Coffey says a "bonded person from the bank comes to pick up the money." But it hasn't always been that way, says Coffey, who reports an employee used to carry the money to the bank each morning. Even in the daytime hours, however, "The liability was just too high," she says.
Jenkins says minimizing the amount of cash held on premises, making money drops during the day, or having armored cars pick up cash are smart, but he points out that no matter what precautions a business takes, "There's no guarantee that things won't go bad."