Estate of Clerk Sues Convenience Store Chain over Lack of Security

HOBBS, N.M. (AP) -- The family of a convenience store clerk who was killed while working the graveyard shift at a store here is suing Allsup's Convenience Stores Inc.

The lawsuit was filed in state district court in Santa Fe on Friday by attorneys for Mary Ann McConnell. She represents the estate of Elizabeth Garcia and Garcia's three young children.

Garcia, 26, was reported missing Jan. 16, 2002. She was working alone at an Allsup's store when she vanished. Her body was found in a Hobbs field later that day with 57 stab wounds.

The lawsuit seeks full compensation for Garcia's estate and children. It also seeks aggravating circumstances damages, punitive damages, costs of litigation, and other relief.

``As a direct and proximate result of Allsup's willful and intentional acts and omissions, Elizabeth Garcia was abducted, raped and murdered. Her children were left motherless and her estate suffered damages,'' the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit lists a couple of incidents where Allsup's clerks were killed while working alone on the graveyard shift and requests by an employee to have two clerks on the shift.

``Before Elizabeth's abduction, rape and murder, the Hobbs Police Department's COP STAT crime-tracking program revealed that the Allsup's stores were a large component of the total crime occurring in Hobbs,'' the lawsuit said.

It also cites statements by Hobbs Police Chief Tony Knott about a meeting he had with then-Allsup's vice president Mark Allsup. Knott said he asked Allsup for the store's help in trying to reduce crime.

The Associated Press left a telephone message Monday evening at Allsup's headquarters seeking comment, but the call was not immediately returned.

This case and other violence prompted the state to approve regulations requiring stores open after 11 p.m. to have two workers on duty or limit access through bulletproof glass windows. Stores that can't afford the security measures must close at 11 p.m.

Paul Lovett, who was charged in Garcia's death after his arrest in the death of another woman in the area, is awaiting trial.

``Paul Lovett noticed that there were no video cameras in the store which might record and reveal his identity to the police,'' the lawsuit said.

``Paul Lovett noticed that there was no second staff person there to get between him and Elizabeth or to report his actions to the authorities,'' the lawsuit said.