STAR, N.C. (WGHP) — A second suspect is in custody after a woman working at a gas station in Star was killed during a robbery.

On Saturday, Star police called on the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to help in investigating the death of 53-year-old Laura Whitman.

SBI was able to identify one of the suspects as a 17-year-old from Darlington, South Carolina. He was arrested by Darlington police on Monday. The teen was already wanted on an attempted murder charge in connection with an incident on June 5.

The teenager will be transferred to Montgomery County and charged with first-degree murder in Whitman’s death and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

James William Ward
James William Ward

On Sunday, the State Bureau of Investigation arrested James William Ward, 57, on charges of first-degree murder in Whitman’s death and robbery. He received no bond. Star police say investigators believe Ward was the driver.

On June 25, Whitman was working her first shift at Quick Chek in Star. She previously worked at a Quick Chek in Candor but was transferred to the Star location recently. That night Whitman never made it home from her shift.

Whitman’s daughter Courtney Rodriguez had just gotten off work and was sitting down to relax when she got the news.

“My manager calls me and she’s like ‘Are you okay?’ And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?'” said Rodriguez.

Her manager told her a man tried to rob the store just after 10 p.m. Whitman willingly opened the cash drawer, but the robber then jumped across the counter, shot her, took more money and left. He got away with $96.

Rodriguez says her mom had no limit to her love.

“Momma was the kind of person that would give you the shirt off her back,” said Rodriguez. “She was sweet, everybody loved her, anybody that came in and knew her. She was always, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ and would pick around with customers.”

Rodriguez says her mom did everything right in this situation, gave the person the money they asked for and they took her life anyway.

“I don’t want him out. He doesn’t deserve to be out. He doesn’t deserve to be free,” said Rodriguez.

She doesn’t believe jail time is enough of a punishment.

“The way I look at it: a life for a life. They took my mother’s. They deserve to not have theirs,” said Rodriguez.

Now, a little more than two weeks since the tragedy, Rodriguez is back at work with the support of her coworkers.

“As far as work, I’m not working alone. I got somebody with me all the time, so I feel OK,” she said.  

We spoke to the Star police chief Tuesday, and he says that while he does not anticipate any additional arrests, this is still an ongoing investigation.

If you have any information on the incident, you’re asked to call the Star Police Department.