by Brandon LaChance

The Livingston County Police Department has opened three investigations in the last week.

At 9:33 p.m. Nov. 27, Fast Stop in Odell was robbed at gunpoint. Three days later, the county deputies were dispatched at 7:17 a.m. for a break in not in progress at the American Legion in Cullom and at 7:45 a.m. at Trails End in Campus. Both calls were for burglarized gambling machines.

Detective Blake Krewer is on the case for the gas station robbery.

“We have a few leads and we’re hoping for some more information from the public to help us identify this guy,” said Detective Krewer, who has been with the Livingston County Police Department for 11 years.

“There wasn’t a lot of actual evidence to use from the scene except the video footage. We’re just hoping that someone who saw the pictures or the video can either identify the person or possibly an article of clothing they’re wearing. We’re hoping someone can say, ‘I know so and so has this kind of coat.’ We’re just looking for any lead we can go off of.”

Fast Stop’s operating manager Raj Patel and the employee working at the time of the robbery, Tabitha Hessa, have been cooperative with Krewer and the LCPD.

Hessa, 28, has been employed by the gas station since Sept. 27 and was never expecting a robbery in a small town like Odell.

“I was sitting in my little chair doing my paperwork,” Hessa said. “All of a sudden, I looked up to a gun barrel in my face. It was over our CBD rack. He started yelling at me to, ‘Get the money bag.’ He said the green money bag, but our bag isn’t green. When I said, ‘I don’t have a green money bag,’ he told me to get the women (customer) in the back. I asked him, ‘What did she do to you?’

“I turned around and ran back there, plowed the door open and told her, ‘I’m getting robbed right now.’ By the time I turned around and came out of the gambling machine room, he was already walking around the corner toward the slot machines. I told him, ‘All I have is change back here.’ He was already in the process of taking my customer’s money.

“He screamed at me, ‘Give me all the money in the register.’ I tried to hesitate, but he yelled ‘Hurry.’ He ran out the door and ran to the right. I ran to lock the door and then called 911. I was shocked, I never had anything like that happen to me, ever. It was scary. It was so fast. It was definitely an experience. I’m shaking just talking about it.”

Hessa was able to give a description of the man with the gun as he was wearing black sunglasses, a red bandana over half of his face to where she could only see his a part of his white forehead, a tan winter coat that was dirty in the front, and a black stocking hat.

She was the only employee at the store during the robbery and there was only one customer. Hessa said the cameras showed the man outside the store before the event took place as he waited for the 9 p.m. rush of customers to leave.

“We watched him on the cameras and he walked behind the building and along my car before he came in the store,” Hessa said. “When he came out after the robbery, he ran the other way, but was still behind the building. He circled the whole building.

“I think he did case the store. Usually, when we use the money bag, all the lights are off in the store and we use it after close. The doors are already locked. He knew there was a bag and he knew there was a woman in the back. He didn’t say person, he said woman.”

Patel has had to go through this twice as Fast Stop was also robbed on April 17. The manager and Detective Krewer said the two robberies were different and were not linked.

“He come inside the door a little after 9:30 p.m., had a gun, and pointed it at my employee. He asked for the money. It was a typical robbery for the most part,” Patel said. “I don’t think it’s our location. The two robberies were different. They were looking for money, but didn’t get much. The robber probably got about $250. He got $100 from our customer. According to the register, he got $150 from us.”

However, the LCPD does believe the gambling machine burglaries in Cullom and Campus are linked as the video footage shows the same silhouette breaking into the machines. Detective Chase is leading the investigation in both Collum and Campus.

If you have any information or can identify the subjects in either case, photos are on the Livingston County Sheriff Facebook page, at (815) 844-2774 or bkrewer@livingston countyil.gov for Detective Krewer and dchase@livingston countyil.gov for Detective Chase.

Brandon LaChance can be contacted at (815) 876-7941, blachance20@gmail.com, or on Twitter @LaChanceWriter.

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