A Shot in the Dark?
In September of 2013, Lawrence Muirhead, 53 of Tuscan Arizona, loaded a load of highway signs on his truck in Pennsylvania going to Nogales Arizona. He was to deliver on October 1; he never showed up to make that delivery. The last his family heard from him was on September 28. Muirhead’s truck was found abandoned in Merriam Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City shortly after he disappeared, while all of his belongings were found in the truck, including his driver’s license, there was no sign of Muirhead.
In February 2014, an anonymous tip led police to a residence at 20th and New Jersey in Kansas City Kansas. The tip said there was a body in a freezer at the residence in the detached garage. Police did find a body in the freezer who was subsequently identified as the missing truck driver Lawrence Muirhead. Police have not released a cause of death, Muirhead’s family reports that he had been shot in the head.
The person living in the residence said that her boyfriend had brought the body to the house and put it in the freezer in October. She said he was a drug user and suffering from cancer going into the hospital in December. It is unknown if the boyfriend is still alive or not at this time.
From indications, it appears that Muirhead had parked for the night at a closed discount store parking lot near I-35. There is little parking available for trucks once one gets south of I-70 in the Kansas City area for many miles.
The Muirhead family is looking for answers; they do not understand why Muirhead would have been a victim of a crime like this. Muirhead had a degree in engineering and came to trucking later in life. He was a body builder, into healthy living and had never used drugs. What really happened to Lawrence Muirhead may never be known.
Truckers of all sorts are caught in the catch 22 situation of not being able to find a safe place to park without violating the regulations. Ramps, closed businesses and empty lots are at times the only options. There are times when one has little choice, and truthfully, truck stops are not very safe either. What does one do in these cases?
Have you ever stopped somewhere and it just did not feel right, you have a ”˜gut feeling’? Nature gave us intuition; that raised hair on the back of our necks or hyper-alertness for some reason in some areas. Everyone should pay attention to that.
Truckers are some of the most generous people in the world so are approached quite often, no matter where they are parked, by people looking for help or handouts. Never roll your window down or step down out of your truck if someone comes up to it unless it is a mechanic you have called or law enforcement. Just wave unknowns away.
It never hurts if you are going to be parking at a shipper or receiver’s to call and ask if it is safe to park. If you see suspicious activity if you are parked in some place like a closed mall or if someone tries to approach you, you have two choices: either dial 911 or let your tires take you away. Move to somewhere else if you are not staged waiting on delivery nearby. Do this even if you are out of hours and explain it when you get stopped again. Your safety and the safety of the load and equipment trump HOS. Sometimes just picking up the phone and pretending to dial 911 after waving someone away will make them move on.
If you have a pet that has to go outside, plan ahead if you even think you may be parking in a questionable area. Stop at the last safe area and walk them closest to where you will be running out of hours or are going to park up waiting on delivery near or at a shipper or receiver. This way, you do not have to get out of the truck in a potentially unsafe area.
You have three weapons that no one can argue with: your brain, your truck and your fire extinguisher. Always keep your personal safety foremost in your mind and think ahead of how you will handle different dangerous situations. Never talk about your load, where you are going to park, or where you are going to get money.
If someone tries to get in your truck while you are in the seat or if you feel threatened, get going. Few people can hang on at 30 mph to the outside of the truck or want to be run over by one. If someone who is threatening you steps in front of the truck to stop your truck from moving, keep moving; they will move. Call 911.
Keep a small fire extinguisher by your seat and one in the bunk easy to hand. Spraying it in someone's face takes their breath away and the extinguisher itself makes a good club to hit them. Practice reaching for it and pretend to pull the pin so you are used to the motions it takes.
Of course, you have to keep your doors locked at all times. When you go to bed, run your seat belts thru the door handles, or use bungee straps or a motorcycle strap to secure your doors. If you are in the habit of hanging your jeans on the seat, stop doing that and keep them out of sight in the bunk with you. Never leave your billfold or money in plain sight.
Will doing the above keep you 100% safe? No, it will not. Unfortunately, due to old time beliefs that we carry a lot of money and the knowledge that we haul freight that can be fenced, we truckers have big bulls eyes on our backs. However, doing the above will lessen the chances of you becoming a victim and is that not the best we can do even when we are supposedly safe at home? No one wants to end up shot in the dark.