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Before she was gunned down, Kilgore store clerk made cryptic phone calls

By Robyn Claridy rclaridy@news-journal.com
Jan. 10, 2011 at 7 p.m.


KILGORE - At least two people received cryptic phone calls from an adult video store clerk shortly before she was shot to death in an apparent holdup early Monday morning.

Kilgore police responded at 12:08 a.m. to a disturbance call at Adult Video, a store in the 1900 block of Industrial Avenue. Officers found Renee Garrett, 25, dead of a gunshot wound.

In an interview later Monday, store owner Robert Duggan said he received a call from Garrett at 11:59 p.m. He was unsure whether the call was dialed intentionally or by accident.

"I could hear Renee telling someone in the store to get back in their car, which seems to indicate that she knew them. I haven't really made sense of the comment though," Duggan said. "Occasionally we get a customer who is drunk or on drugs that we have to deal with, but this person was stern. I stayed on the phone about 90 seconds trying to figure out what was going on, then I called the store manager to get her to go check on Renee."

Duggan, owner of Gregg County Video Corp., said he also made a phone call to Kilgore police's non-emergency line after receiving the unusual call.

Other pieces of evidence were taken from a voicemail the victim left on another person's phone, Duggan said, but declined to give further details.

The store generally closes at 1 a.m., but business was slow on a snowy Sunday night and Garrett was preparing to close early when the shooting occurred, he said.

An undisclosed amount of money and a cash box were taken, police said.

Kilgore Police Lt. Roman Roberson said the department had no information on the robber by Monday afternoon. Among the potential leads police were checking was whether the business had a working video surveillance system that might have captured images of the shooting or of potential witnesses.

Justice of the Peace Arthur Fort said the victim had at least one gunshot wound. He ordered the body sent to a Tyler forensics lab for further analysis.

Duggan had praise for the clerk.

"We've operated at that location for the past 11 years without an incident this serious," he said. "We're all very shaken up. Renee was such a vibrant person. She was making great headway in her life ... just trying to earn a living and trying to provide for her loved ones."

Billy Owen, a friend of Garrett, said he had known her for about eight years.

"I met Renee through her mom Patty. We were friends and it just blossomed from there. She was really a decent person. She didn't lie, cheat or steal," Owen said. "She was a really laid-back and free-willed person - she was like a little sister to me."

He said Garrett had worked at the video store for more than a year.

According to News-Journal archives, Adult Video also was robbed in October 2009. Two East Texas men were sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of robbing the video store and a convenience store.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about the slaying to contact Detective Jason Brannon or Sgt. Tony Stone at (903) 983-1559. Tipsters may also give information anonymously by calling Gregg County Crime Stoppers at (903) 236-STOP.

Roberson said Crime Stoppers would pay up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for this crime.

An additional $10,000 reward is being offered by Gregg County Video, the store's owner.

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