Police: Suspected Shooter Did Not Know Victim
An Arkansas state employee is dead and another woman is in police custody after a shooting at a rest stop early Tuesday morning.
Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department officials identified the victim as 54-year-old Sharren Richards. She was shot twice, according to police.
Patricia McClure-Hajek, 58, of Franklin County, was arrested and charged with 1st Degree Murder in Richards’ death. She’s being held at the Crawford County Detention Center without bond.
Investigators do not believe the two women knew each other.
“As far as we know, this was an isolated incident and we’re really not sure what made her do it,” said Det. Jonathan Wear.
According to officials, Richards has been with the highway department since November 2007 as a rest attendant maintaining the outside of the welcome center and rest area.
According to Lt. Steven Staggs with the Van Buren Police Department, Richards was shot between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., at the rest stop on Interstate 40 near Lee Creek Road.
When police arrived they found McClure-Hajek with a revolver in her hand. She also had a small self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg, police say.
Investigators obtained and executed search warrants for both McClure-Hajek’s house in Franklin County, and vehicle.
Police found Richards on the ground behind her state vehicle.
Authorities say approximately 5-10 eyewitnesses were at the rest stop at the time of the shooting. The eyewitnesses were interviewed by investigators and released.
One of the eyewitnesses said he saw a state employee appear to check on someone sitting inside a gray truck. That’s when he said he heard two gunshots, saw the person outside the truck fall back, and called 911.
“I said there’s somebody over here in a gray pick-up that’s shooting people and I didn’t know if they were going to start shooting at us or something, so I started to get ready to get down on the floor,” said trucker Charles Scott.
“She never got out,” said Scott. “I didn’t know it was a lady at the time. I didn’t know who was in there. I just know somebody shot and I said I’m not driving by there.”
Another eyewitness tells 5NEWS he saw the gray truck parked at the rest stop for several hours. He says it was not in a parking spot.
“I just pulled in here a little after midnight and seen the pick-up sitting there and I thought it was broke down, so I really didn’t think too much about it,” said trucker William Calwonsen.
Scott says Richards was picking up trash near the rest area before she checked on the gray truck.
AHTD rest area attendants wear yellow or green vests but never are armed and do not wear protective vests or helmets, according AHTD officials.
The rest stop was closed to the public for about three hours while officers investigated the shooting.