By Joe Johnson
Oconee County Sheriff James Hale Jr. on Wednesday released the following statement concerning the investigation into the murder last Friday of RaceTrac clerk Elijah Woods, 23, of Watkinsville:
First of all, I would like to thank all of you for your support and willingness to call in with information. This case has shocked our entire community, and trust me when I say that we are doing everything humanly possible to solve it. We have been touched by your outpouring of love and kindness to Elijah’s family. I also want to assure you that RaceTrac has been extremely supportive of the family and helpful in the investigation in a level that is beyond our expectations.
We are tirelessly working around the clock with our local, state, and federal partners to follow every lead to its logical conclusion. We are following evidence and facts not chasing theory and conjecture.
Please understand that we have to protect the integrity of the investigation, and there is evidence and information that has not and will not be released.
If I may speak plainly to you, baseless theories are not helpful, and quite frankly, there has not been enough information released for anyone to form a logical conclusion.
Like all of you I am appalled by this heinous act and as a member of our community I want this crime solved as much as anyone. As your Sheriff I promise that your Sheriff’s Office is working as hard as we can to solve this crime!
Sheriff James A. Hale, Jr.
Hale on Tuesday said that his agency was “working tirelessly” to solve the case with the assistance of investigators from other local agencies, as well as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and an FBI Safe Streets task force.
Woods was fatally shot between 1 and 2 a.m. Feb. 19 at the RaceTrac located on U.S. Highway 441 at Hog Mountain Road.
Hale would not say if anything was stolen by the killer, or speculate about possible motives.
“There already is too much case-sensitive information on social media,” he said.
Woods was not armed with a gun and there was nothing to indicate he was shot while trying to defend himself, the sheriff said.
When asked if the killer, whose body and face was mostly obscured with black clothing and a mask might possibly be female, Hale said, “All possibilities are being explored.”
The only publicly known evidence in the case is store surveillance camera footage that shows the suspect entering the store with a gun in their right hand, who went directly to the counter and shot Woods
The video then shows the killer run to the entrance door where they hesitated before briefly returning to the checkout counter prior to running out of the store.
In the publicly-released video the killer is wearing black gloves that appear to have white on the palms.
Hale said he was optimistic the case can be solved.
“We have way more information than we are releasing,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting the right break in the case.”
"We appreciate all of the tips and insights from our citizens and concerned followers on Facebook," said a Monday afternoon post on the OCSO's Facebook page.
The post said: If you have information regarding this case we ask that you not post the information in the comments on Facebook. Please call it in to the Sheriff’s Office at (706) 769-3945 or send the information to one of the following emails: