Crime & Courts

December 8, 2012

Two sisters recount their grisly discovery at a Wichita dollar store

The night began with two sisters’ quest for beauty supplies.

The night began with two sisters’ quest for beauty supplies.

It ended with a terrible discovery at a Dollar General store.

What they walked into was the unexplained killing of two men, which last week prompted a capital murder charge against a 19-year-old Wichita man who could face the death penalty if convicted.

The sisters’ shopping trip began the evening of Nov. 30, in a strip of stores on the northwest corner of 13th and Oliver, in an area that has had its share of violent crime over the years but has fought back with security measures and redevelopment.

A 58-year-old Wichita woman and her 45-year-old sister, on their way to get hair products, found that a beauty supply store in that shopping area had closed for the night. The beauty shop sits next to a Dollar General and a short distance from a new Walmart. They went to the Walmart and found the right hair dye but couldn’t get a certain hair conditioner for the 58-year-old, so they went back toward the Dollar General.

Only a couple of cars sat in the parking lot outside the Dollar General. Both sisters, who asked not to be named out of concern for their safety, regularly shop there. They knew one of the employees, 22-year-old Zachary Hunt, and appreciated his uplifting attitude and helpful service. As they started to go into the store a few minutes after 8 p.m., a woman brushed past.

“Something really bad has happened in there,” the woman said.

For a moment, the two sisters thought they might be able to help someone inside. But they stopped at the inner door when they saw a man’s feet in dark shoes, pointing toward the ceiling. Then they saw the whole body of the man lying on the floor, near a checkout counter at the front of the store. He was on his back. They saw blood.

The man, they would later learn, was 79-year-old Hank Harvey, on a trip to get candy.

Except for the man on the floor, nothing looked disturbed to the sisters.

The older sister noticed that the man’s chest wasn’t moving, and at about the same time, both sisters blurted out to each other, “He’s dead.”

The older sister called out to anyone possibly still in the store: “Hello! Hello! Hello!”

A young man, an employee, ran toward them from inside the store, and said, “All I heard is, ‘Pow, pow, pow.’ ”

He asked, “What happened?”

The older sister called 911 on a cellphone and told her sister and the employee that they needed to retreat, that whoever shot the man at the front of the store might still be around.

The young employee, who was shaken, kept saying, “My co-worker! My co-worker!”

Police arrive

The younger sister ran to the east, toward a nearby QuikTrip, on the northeast corner of 13th and Oliver, thinking she could find a police officer working off-duty. As she waited to cross Oliver, she saw a police car pull into the Walmart parking lot and head to the Dollar General. By the time she ran back to the Dollar General, she saw an officer get out of his car and walk with his handgun, with the weapon down at first, then raised as he moved closer to the store.

Other officers arrived and moved in with guns drawn, stepping forward quickly, from different angles. Several officers entered the store. Other police quickly blocked off the area around the store. The older sister counted maybe 20 police cars.

The younger sister heard her 3-year-old granddaughter, who had been waiting with an adult neighbor in a car outside the Dollar General. The girl was saying, “That’s the police. That’s the police.” The grandmother tried to shield the girl’s view of the store, fearful of what the child might see.

In a recording of emergency dispatch traffic around the time of the incident, someone says that there was an employee in the storeroom and that there were two victims in the store. Someone can be heard instructing officers to wear gloves, get a camera inside as soon as possible, and keep others outside the store to detain and separate witnesses. The recording indicates that initially there was no description of a suspect.

The sisters learned that a second body in the store was that of Zach – Zachary Hunt – the helpful store employee. Police found Hunt’s body at some distance from Harvey’s, on the floor in an aisle near the store office, a police report said. Both had been shot more than once and were pronounced dead a short time after officers arrived.

The two sisters spent the next few hours that night on the sixth floor of City Hall, where investigators interviewed them about what they had seen.

This past Friday, the sisters gave their accounts of that night to an Eagle reporter.

Suspect charged

Police said early last week that they had not found a motive for the shooting, that it appeared nothing had been taken from the store, and that the suspect, 19-year-old Marquis Marshall, had no apparent ties to the victims. Police said two employees at the rear of the store heard shots but did not witness the shootings and that two customers arrived after the shootings and called 911.

By the day after the shootings, police were circulating a picture of Marshall and identifying him as a suspect. On the Sunday afternoon following the Friday-night shootings, police arrested Marshall, who had been wanted since August on a warrant in a felony theft case after he failed to appear at a court hearing. Police have not said how they linked Marshall to the killings.

On Wednesday, prosecutors charged Marshall with capital murder in the two deaths, and a judge ordered him to be held in jail on a $5 million bond.

‘I just can’t believe’

The older sister who discovered the shootings talked about the senselessness of it. Speaking of Hunt, the employee she knew, she said, “I just can’t believe anybody went in there and wasted his life for nothing.”

She remembered how Hunt would ask, “ ‘Did you find everything you needed?’ ” and would quickly retrieve anything she couldn’t. “He knew his store,” she said.

The younger sister recalled how he would tell her, “ ‘Turn that frown into a smile. … Come on, let’s smile.’ ”

The older sister said she wanted Hunt’s family to know that “he’s truly going to be missed” by his customers.

As of Friday afternoon, the younger sister had not yet returned to the store.

“I’m just giving myself some time, ease myself into it a little bit,” she said. “I’ll go back.”

The older sister said she has thought about how if the timing of the shopping trip had been slightly different, “I would have been there” in the store when the shooting happened.

“Me and my sister.”

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