By Joe Johnson
The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday announced that the reward in the RaceTrac clerk murder case has been increased to $25,000.
A $10,000 reward was initially offered by RaceTrac and the FBI, but private donations to the Sheriff's Reward Fund more than doubled that amount.
Additionally on Thursday, the agency released a new video that purportedly shows a "vehicle of interest" arriving at the gas station/convenience store prior to the March 19 shooting death of the clerk, 23-year-old Elijah Wood of Watkinsville.
Although no vehicle is clearly seen in the video, the sheriff’s office said it depicts “a vehicle of interest arriving prior to the RaceTrac shooting. The vehicle is seen traveling 441 south, turning right onto Hog Mountain Rd., driving past the RaceTrac, turning right onto Welbrook Rd. and stopping for a period of time before driving away. (The video speed may not be in real time).”
The agency previously released video of the killer entering and leaving the store.
The deadly shooting occurred 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, 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 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:
Anyone with information on th e vehicle of interest or who may have seen it in the area of the RaceTrac or parked on Welbrook Rd. on March 19 between 12:45 am and 01:30 a.m. is also urged to call the Sheriff’s Office.