By Joe Johnson
Two months later, investigators have yet to identify the killer of a Watkinsville convenience store clerk.
Nevertheless, Oconee County Sheriff James Hale, whose agency is heading the investigation of 23-year-old Elijah Wood’s murder, remains confident the killer will be found and arrested.
Wood was killed early the morning of March 19 at the RaceTrac on U.S. Highway 441 at Hog Mountain Road in what was believed to be an attempted armed robbery.
“Obviously this is still an ongoing investigation and will be as long as this killer is still out there,” Hale said. “We will continue to track down all leads and use every resource at our disposal to find Elijah's killer. I personally believe that it's only a matter of time.”
To date, the sheriff said his investigators have conducted numerous additional interviews and been able to eliminate several potential suspects.
“We have secured a number of data search warrants (for electronic devices) and are analyzing this data as it comes in,” Hale said.
The sheriff revealed that his office had received a tip that the killer might be someone with whom Wood had an argument prior to killed.
“Though we did receive a tip that Elijah had been involved in a verbal altercation with a customer we have not been able to confirm the altercation on at least a month’s worth of video,” Hale said.
“We believe robbery was the motive and we have reason to believe so, however cannot go into details as to why,” he added.
When asked what might be the gender of the killer, whose body and face were mostly obscured with black clothing and a mask, Hale said, “All possibilities are being explored.”
Investigators have also looked at Wood’s friends and acquaintances to see if anyone might have had a motive to kill him.
The only publicly known evidence in the case is store surveillance camera footage released by the sheriff’s office that shows the suspect entering the store with a gun in their right hand, who went directly to the counter and shot Wood. The killer is seen about to leave the store, when they turned back and went to the counter a second time.
Hale would not say why the killer made that second trip to where Wood was shot.
In the video the killer is wearing black gloves that appear to have white on the palms. The suspect appears to be wearing a hood with black or dark blue and white drawstrings.
Hale said he hopes a better description of the killer can be developed by a team of experts that are expected to come later this month from the FBI National Academy, the federal agency’s training and research center in Virginia.
“We are waiting on the F.B.I. to send their team here from Quantico to determine the approximate descriptors of our suspect based on their court proven techniques,” the sheriff said. “We will then release that information.”
In addition to the data search warrants, interviews, Hale said the investigation has included assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and “numerous other local agencies to ensure every possible investigative technique is applied to the case.”
Additionally, a $25,000 reward has been raised and deputies and Wood’s family members have passed out thousands of reward posters.
“Obviously, this is still an ongoing investigation and will be as long as this killer is still out there,” Hale said. “We will continue to track down all leads and use every resource at our disposal to find Elijah's killer.”
The sheriff's office has asked for anyone with information about this case to call (706) 769-3945.