Store Clerk Fatally Shot After Texting Friends She Felt Unsafe

Photo: GoFundMe/Tava Woodard

A Tennessee gas station store clerk was killed shortly after texting friends that she felt unsafe, reports.

Tava Woodard, 23, was working an overnight shift at the Roadrunner Market in Johnson City when two men entered the store and demanded money from the cash register before killing her despite complying with their orders. Woodard's mother, Melissa Jones, told PEOPLE that her daughter had an uneasy feeling about the shift, which began at midnight, texting her friends and co-workers about a small shoplifting incident that had taken place prior to her murder.

“A customer came in yelling and screaming and stealing some chips,” Jones said. "She texted that she didn’t feel safe there anymore. From what I’m hearing none of them were feeling very safe — this is all over the place so I’ll go ahead and say it. All of her coworkers have stated that the 'panic button' under the counter wasn’t working — and wasn’t even hooked up.”

Mark Anthony Sexton Jr., 41, and Mark Anthony Sexton III, 18, both of Johnson City were arrested and charged with first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery, while Sexton III was also charged with possession of a firearm during a dangerous felony and tampering with evidence, in relation to Woodard's death, Johnson City Police Chief Bill Church announced Wednesday (June 7) via the Johnson City Press, acknowledging that additional charges could be added.

Both suspects were reported to be covered from head to toe during the incident.

“She had no chance of contacting anybody to help her,” Jones told PEOPLE. “What’s she going to do? Pick up her phone and make a phone call? And there’s no 'panic button' hooked up. What’s she supposed to do all by herself? I won’t get into specifics, but the police have told me that she was very calm, very composed, and that they were amazed at hearing how old she was and how well she maintained her composure and calmness.”

A GoFundMe launched by Cassie Neeley on behalf of Jones has raised more than $32,000 of its $100,000 goal to help Woodard's family with funeral expenses as of Thursday (June 8) morning.

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