Double Murder in Boca Raton Retail Parking Lot

Woman and young daughter found murdered in their car at Boca mall

Last Christmas Eve, a gang fight led to gunfire at the Boynton Beach Mall, killing one man and sending customers diving for cover.

In 2004, a Hialeah couple were found dead inside their running pickup truck in front of a Pembroke Pines Target.

For Susan Edwards, news of the double homicide hit particularly close to home. The Parkland resident was a victim in 2000 of the infamous "Rolex Bandit" who robbed more than 40 women at Boca Raton shopping centers, including Town Center, threatening to shoot them if they didn't give up their jewelry.

After the robbery, Edwards and a handful of other victims walked the parking lot and handed out fliers to warn shoppers. She said officials with Simon Property Group, which manages the mall, responded to her request for more security by distributing vouchers for valet parking to her and several other victims. She still thinks the mall's security is woefully inadequate.

"It's only money that is going to make them change their ways," Edwards said. "People are not going to stop shopping there. Within three months it will all be forgotten."

Retail security experts say shoppers often can prevent incidents by being more alert. Carjackers strike when shoppers aren't paying attention to their surroundings or talking on their cell phone. And often, a carjacker will strike just before a person enters or exits their vehicle, McGoey said, noting that 98 percent of the time the victim doesn't see the perpetrator.

"Be alert," McGoey said. "It's like going to the jungle. You've got to pay attention to what's around you."

Shoppers should visualize a 25-foot circle around them at all times, and pay attention to who comes into the circle, said Gary Frechette, director of security at The Gardens mall in Palm Beach Gardens. If someone or something looks suspicious, shoppers should avoid walking into the situation.

"There's no need to be paranoid or scared, but you do need to be aware," he said. Simon officials declined to comment, aside from a written statement by Joe Cilia, the Town Center mall manager, promising beefed-up security.

"We will also sustain the substantial security presence we have at our property on an ongoing basis to maintain a safe and secure environment for our shoppers and employees," Cilia wrote.

Staff Writers Nancy L. OthĂłn and Rachael Joyner and Staff Researchers Barbara Hijek and William Lucey contributed to this report.