The reward being offered in the March slaying of a gas station clerk at a RaceTrac outside Watkinsville has doubled to $50,000 thanks to new contributions.
Authorities are seeking tips leading to an arrest and conviction in the shooting that killed 23-year-old Oconee County resident Elijah James Wood, who was found shot to death behind the checkout counter on March 19.
The FBI put up $20,000 and Wood’s employer added $15,000. The rest came from Oconee County officials — $10,000 from county commissioners and $5,000 from the sheriff for any tip that results in the gunman’s arrest.
The convenience store is located near Hog Mountain Road and Highway 441, just outside Athens, where Wood was working alone on the graveyard shift.
A customer discovered Wood dead about 1:40 a.m. and called authorities, reports said.
Deputies who responded administered CPR to Wood but were unable to revive him.
The man’s killer, who walked with a peculiar gait, was captured on the store’s surveillance cameras wearing a black ninja-like mask and hood with a drawstring pulled tight to his head. He also wore gloves, long sleeves, slacks and boots.
The suspect’s disguise exposed only his eyes, but none of his other features were identifiable.
Video shows the subject running back and forth throughout the store before eventually leaving the scene. He remains at large and is considered armed and dangerous, police said.
Investigators have examined the footage looking for clues to the killer’s identity but have been unsuccessful, said Oconee County Sheriff James Hale.
Police have not revealed the full circumstances of the shooting or whether Wood had confronted the suspect in any way.
Hale said it’s likely that someone close to the shooter knows who killed the man. Authorities hope the reward will persuade someone to step forward.
“We believe it’s going to take a good amount of reward to be able to get someone caught,” Tripp Lemmonds, Wood’s brother-in-law, told the Athens Banner-Herald.
A GoFundMe page has raised thousands of dollars for Wood’s family.
Wood was killed just a week shy of his 24th birthday, which he shared with a twin sister.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Detective Zach Eaton at 706-769-3945 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The FBI in Atlanta can be reached at 770-216-3000, or @oconeelaw at 706-769-5665 or go to http://tips.fbi.gov.