It was high summer in Reddick, Florida. Snowbirds had fled back to their northern homes. Insects buzzed in the field, and all was quiet, too quiet inside the Wayside Antique shop, a two-story, white-washed structure just off I-75.
Inside the bodies of managers, David and Betty Branum both in their late 50s were handcuffed to a floor safe. They were shot in the head execution style. Martin Gates, the son of the store owner, Tom Gates, discovered them.
Analysis of the crime scene indicated that one of them had to witness the slaying of the other before they met their own end. The couple lived in a mobile home just behind the shop for 12 years.
L.K. Edwards who owned the land where the antique store was located told newspapers that "someone broke into Wayside about a month ago by tearing off a piece of aluminum siding." He believed the robbers came back to break into the safe which contained expensive jewelry.
Not only was jewelry stolen but expensive antiques and collectibles. The place was not ransacked, and items were specifically picked to be taken. Police accurately suspected the motive for the crime was robbery.
Three years sped by before police asked the grand jury to indict two men on the charges of first-degree murder.
One was a Missouri native, Lewis W. Barnes already in trouble with Texas law where he was held on charges of attempted murder and grand theft. The other man, Pedro Covarrubias, was serving time in a Texas prison for the sale of heroin.
In 1987, investigators zeroed in on concrete evidence against the perpetrators. On July 4, FBI agents accompanied by Marion county sheriffs searched the home of Edwin Slade in Las Vegas. They found collectibles and antique furniture estimated to cost about a quarter of a million dollars. These along with $250,000 worth of jewelry were stolen from the Branums.
The jewelry were not found and the police feared they were melted down.
Edwin Slade had bought the stolen goods from the suspects in August 1984.
Prosecution of those accused stretched out, and in 1989, Lewis Barnes confessed he was present during the murders, but did not do the shooting. He said he didn't know anyone was getting shot. He said Pedro Covarrubias shot the Branums. He pled no contest and was sentenced to two life prison terms, however he was first serving a 40-year sentence in Texas for attempting to kill a Houston police officer.
In 1991, Pedro Covarrubias was charged by a grand jury with two counts of first-degree murder. This was more than seven years after the owners of the Wayside Inn Antiques were killed.
Covarrubias was already convicted in federal court in connection with the robbery for bringing antiques across state lines. He was sentenced to 20 years. He was serving 15 years on drug charges.
Fast forward into the 21st century and the Wayside Antique shop is now the Antique Emporium.
Since the day of the brutal crime, employees and shoppers have experienced paranormal activity within its walls.
According to Backpackerverse, a former employee, Ana described an incident while she worked there. "I knew about the murders before accepting the job. I mean, everyone in Reddick knows what happened there, how awful it was. It was a bit spooky to work in a place where something like that happened, but it was a great opportunity at that time in my life. I had been at the shop for, maybe, two months.
I was the newest staff member, so when they needed someone to cover the closing shift, I felt like it was my duty to take it over and learn the ropes. Usually a manager is with me, but he had to go home to take care of a sick child. He offered to call someone in for me, but it felt like a good time to test what I had learned about closing the shop, ya know? Anyway, it was late and I had just finished ringing up the last customer of the day. I close out the register, and started sweeping up the floor. I remember thinking I heard someone call my name as I worked... I stopped and listened, but didn't hear anything, but as soon as I started sweeping again, I heard it.
The following are stories told by those who visited the antique store:
~ I worked there for the original owners for twenty years. I can't tell you how many times I had random customers tell me that they had weird feelings or experiences in one of the upstairs rooms. It was a room that contained an antique bed from the 1700's. Also, it was very common for employees to hear footsteps and smell the distinctive pipe smoke of the store's late owner in the workroom in the back. (2014)
Do you have a story to tell?
We want you to feel at home when you post a comment on Stranger Than Fiction Stories. That’s why we reserve the right to delete comments and ban users as needed to keep the comment threads here civil and substantive. So read the guidelines below to make sure you are coloring inside the lines.