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Four Charged With Killing Motel Clerk As Son Watched

November 12, 1985

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) _ Four men have been charged with robbing and killing a motel clerk as his 11-year-old son looked on, officials say.

The men were apprehended after one of the four, allegedly wounded by a shot from the dying clerk, sought medical help at a Savannah hospital.

Chatham County Police Maj. Billy Freeman said Johnnie Lee Smith, 43, a night clerk at the Howard Johnson’s motel on Interstate 95 south of Savannah, was shot in the chest after four men entered the motel office about 3:20 a.m. Monday and demanded that he open the safe.

Smith fired at the men as they fled. His son, Jimmy, who had been sleeping on a couch in the lobby, witnessed the slaying and ran to a restaurant to call for help, but Smith was dead when he returned, Freeman said.

Arrested later Monday and charged with murder and armed robbery were Lindsey Edgar Porter, 21; Linwood James Rose, 19; Fred T. Zeigler, 21; and Reginald Williams, 18. All are from Savannah.

Freeman said Williams had sought treatment for a gunshot wound at Memorial Medical Center, and detectives were able to trace the car that left him there. The four were charged after tests showed the bullet that wounded Williams came from Smith’s gun, he said.

Williams was under police guard at the hospital today. His condition was unavailable, but police said his wounds were not serious. The other three were beind held in the county jail pending arraignment today.

Freeman said Jimmy Smith told police he awoke on the motel couch when a man placed a hand over his mouth. The boy said he heard other men order his father to open the motel safe, then heard shots and saw the men run out.

Smith staggered into the lobby and told his son to run to the nearby restaurant to call for help, but when the boy returned the father was dead, Freeman said.

Dan Byrum, manager of the motel, said Smith had been working there for about 11/2 years, and the boy often accompanied his father to work on weekends.

Smith ″was retired from the Army and was taking a CPA course during the day,″ Byrum said. ″He would leave from work and go right to school.″

Police said several hundred dollars was missing from the motel office after the holdup.

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