As Monday midnight stretched into the darkest hours of Tuesday, an eerie quiet encompassed our town. A police cruiser made a routine swath, its officer checking on the status of the all-night shops along the avenue. The moon, barely past a quarter, sent only a sliver of light onto the town, and the streetlights cast shadows where evil could hide.
It was a cool evening in early autumn; a light jacket was just right. At this hour, while many of its citizens were fast asleep, this town’s night element was just awakening.
Night wanderers. We all know them. They cruise Broadway. They congregate at convenience stores. They play their radios loud. They watch the comings and goings of those who sleep at night and work at daylight.
There are other night people, too, called night workers. They work the third shift, catering to the needs of the night wanderers. They may work at a fast food restaurant, or for a 24-hour discount chain. They may be policemen or firefighters, or restaurant cooks or cab drivers. They work for a living. They support their children. They pay taxes. They contribute to the wellbeing of their community.
On the Tuesday morning just past, the paths of three night people crossed. Only two lived to tell their stories.
Gary J. Wiltermood, one of these so called night wanderers, made a confession to police following the 3 a.m. homicide at the Abel’s Quik Stop on Shinn Lane. His story led to the arrest of his alleged colleague, Mike Studer. Friday morning, both are to be arraigned for murder in the second degree, for the death of Adrienne Arnett, who fearlessly worked the night shift at a convenience store near Hannibal’s medical campus.
The story, according to Wiltermood, began at 2:45 a.m. Tuesday. He was cruising with some friends, each with a nickname and insignificant last names. “I need some weed or meth to get going,” Wiltermood said in his statement to police. A guy named “Mikey” was in the car. “Mikey said if he could get a banger … he said we could go hit a lick and come up. I took that as Mikey meant we could rob someone and get money.”
And that’s where the paths of the night wanderers would line up with the path of the night worker.
“As we were driving Mikey told me about a gas station off MM out by the hospital. I told Mikey I have a pistol. We stopped at my hotel (Best Way Inn, he said) and got my gun out of the woods where I stashed it. We left and went to Walmart. Mikey said he was going to get some gloves.” Then the two men and their companions headed out toward the convenience store across Shinn Lane from Hannibal’s medical campus.
Page 2 of 2 - Those who knew her, know that Adrienne Arnett, the night clerk on duty at Abel’s that night, didn’t take guff from anyone. Her pervasive attitude was positive, and her devotion was to her family - particularly her daughter – and to her two dogs, Sparky and Mischa.
Outside the convenience store where she worked, the lighting glows into an arc in the night. Inside, security cameras monitor the comings and goings of all who venture near. The coffee is always fresh. The restrooms are always clean. Newspapers on the rack tell the latest in local and national happenings. In and out the doors all night are truckers, travelers, health care workers, patients and their families, and … night wanderers.
Wiltermood’s role in the cobbled together plan to rob the convenience store in order to get drug money was simple. He told police he was to pump exactly $10 worth of gasoline into the tank, then to present the clerk with a $10 bill.
Inside the store, Wiltermood told police that Mike Studer stood behind him, gun in hand.
“As she was grabbing the money from me I saw Mikey in my peripheral vision. I hopped to my right side and he was jumping up and down. Mikey said something like ‘give me the money.’ When Mikey was hopping around he swung the pistol at her.”
Three gunshots later, Adrienne Arnett was on the floor, and Wiltermood and Studer were out the door.
After the two men reunited in the vehicle, neither spoke for a time. Then Wiltermood quoted Studer in the statement to police: “Mikey was breathing really heavy and he wasn’t talking. We drove in towards town. Within about of minute of him catching his breath he said, ‘I told you motherxxxxxxs I wasn’t playing around.’”