Family, investigators hope for answers 30 years after Bertie Co. grocery store massacre

The Windsor grocery store was the scene of a mass shooting that remains unsolved 30 years later.
The Windsor grocery store was the scene of a mass shooting that remains unsolved 30 years later.(courtney bunting)
Updated: Jun. 6, 2023 at 4:37 AM EDT
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WINDSOR, N.C. (WITN) - On June 6th, 1993, a man came into an eastern Carolina grocery store, murdered three people and assaulted three others. He got away with a little more than $3,000.

That was thirty years ago, but even after all this time, Windsor Police and the SBI know very little about him.

Meanwhile, families have tried to move on.

Tonight, we are looking back at that day and the horror that unfolded. We’re also learning more about what the FBI believes was the motive behind those acts of violence, all with the hope of someday finding the man responsible.

June 6th, 1993 is a day Jenny Cecil is still trying to forget.

“My brother came into the room and pretty much told me that dad wasn’t coming home,” said Jenny.

It’s the last day she saw her father, Grover Cecil, alive. He was killed while working at a grocery store in Bertie County.

“I still thought that no matter what he was gonna drive up, but after time you learn to just deal with it and try to come to grips that unfortunately, he’s not,” said Jenny.

The days, months and years since then, have been filled with few answers about who’s responsible for the massacre at the Windsor BeLo that day.

“At that time I never would’ve considered anything like that happening,” said Rodney Hoggard, who was a Windsor Police Corporal at the time of the murders.

Dwight Ransome, now retired, was with the State Bureau of Investigation. He was getting ready to work another assignment in the district at the time when he heard the radio traffic.

“On my way there, I hear over the radio that the suspect had taken hostages,” he explained.

Once inside, he started to clear the building, aisle by aisle.

Investigators would later learn the suspect had been hiding in the store, waiting to strike. After employees closed up for the night, he took everyone to the back, tied them up, and bound them however he could.

What followed was brutal. He realized he didn’t have enough ammunition to shoot everyone individually, so he put them in stacks of two and shot through the stacks. Four people were shot – three of those died. Another had his throat slashed; he was also stabbed in the back.

Three people were killed, two others hurt, and a sixth made it out without injury. The suspect left with a little more $3,324.

All investigators had to work with were witness testimonies and a sketch based on what a witness remembered.

“For several weeks there, that was pretty much all people really talked about,” said Hoggard.

In the years since then, investigators have followed leads, but they’ve all run cold.

The FBI has developed a profile for the suspect, to better understand who he is and why he did what he did. They now have a clearer picture.

“Harming people was his first motive. Robbing people was his second motive,” said Ransome.

Martin Community College now uses the building where BeLo once operated. It looks a lot different now. Those changes though, they can’t wipe away the horrific memories of what happened that day, and family members and community members are left with leads that often run cold. Many of them forced to find closure without answers.

“I still have a little bit of that anger inside of me just because you know, it’s not been solved,” explained Cecil. “But again, I just try to have hope, try to be positive about things, otherwise it can destroy you as a person too, and I try to tell myself. I don’t want to be selfish about the situation because me being depressed, me going down a dark road only hurts my family.”

She now only has photos albums and pictures to remind her of the father taken from her all those years ago. But she says she still feels his presence all the time.

“That’s what gets me through… just knowing he’s there to give me the support and the push… to take care of my mom and my siblings and just fight through my own battles,” she said, fighting back tears. “He’s there. I can… he’s with me every day. Wish he could physically be here, but… can’t change it.”

In terms of the suspect, investigators have looked into every lead, from the possibility that he was an ex-police officer to the tip that he used to be a member of the military. No luck. There is still a $30,000 reward available to anyone who has information that could lead to an arrest and conviction. If you know anything, call Windsor Police or the North Carolina SBI.