published Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Fort Payne man charged in Fred's shootings

Police have been able to trace two Fred's store armed robberies in separate states to a disgruntled former Fred's employee from Fort Payne, Ala., who may have been trying to get back at the company that fired him.

A .45-caliber shell casing connected Kelly Jack Mayo to an attempted robbery in Rainsville, Ala., in August that left one Fred's employee paralyzed and another dependent on a cane and to a second burglary two months later at a Fred's store in Cedartown, Ga., Rainsville police Chief Charles Centers said Friday.

Police believe Mayo could have been trying to get back at the company that fired him, Centers said. Mayo worked for a Fred's store in Rome, Ga., Centers said, but was dismissed when the company found merchandise missing from the store. Police also believe Mayo was in financial trouble, the chief said.

One of the victims, who was shot in the spine in the Rainsville robbery attempt, said he is relieved he finally knows what happened and doesn't have to be afraid at night.

"It's Rainsville. It's a small area. You pretty much know everybody," said 39-year-old Matt Whitt. "You never expect anything like this."

So far, Mayo has been charged with six felonies in DeKalb County, Ala., including two counts of attempted murder. In Polk County, Ga., records show he's been charged with 11 felonies, including armed robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment. DeKalb prosecutors say they will have to coordinate with Polk County to decide which should try Mayo first.

"I don't think we've ever had one quite like this," said 9th Judicial Circuit District Attorney Mike O'Dell.

Mayo now is being held in the Polk County Jail, and his attorney couldn't be reached Friday for comment. He was arrested in Cedartown after breaking into the store in early October, holding a gun to a female employee's head and taking her hostage in his car, Centers said. But police rammed the car Mayo was driving and he was arrested.

The Rainsville attempted robbery was on Aug. 24. Whitt said he was locking the doors at the Fred's Super Dollar store when a man came to the door dressed in all black and flashed his sidearm.

At first Whitt thought it was a joke, because he knows all his customers so well. But the man shot at Whitt's co-worker Josh Nance, shattering the glass door, and then turned the gun on him. Whitt said he felt a sharp pain through his back, and when he tried to wiggle his legs on the ground he couldn't move.

After the shooting, when police didn't identify a suspect quickly, rumors started to fly, Whitt said.

"It was like dramaville instead of Rainsville," he said.

The worst part of the shooting has been watching 24-year-old Nance, who has been paralyzed from the waist up, Whitt said. He said he hopes the shooter will be punished for what he took from his friend.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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