ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – After an Arlington mother is targeted, followed and killed while trying to raise money for Christmas, police are again urging people who buy and sell items online to protect themselves.
No matter the time of year, people are always advised when buying or selling something through a community Facebook page, Craigslist, or any classified ad website to meet in a public place and don’t go alone.
Police say wife and mother April Vancleave did all of those things on December 15, while trying to sell jewelry through an online website, and was still followed home, robbed and shot.
Vancleave had arranged to meet a buyer in the parking lot of an Arlington Target store and went to the location with her husband. The person who agreed to buy the jewelry never showed, so police say Vancleave’s husband dropped her off at home and then left for work.
Investigators now believe someone followed the pair to their home, waited for Vancleave’s husband to leave and then attacked the 33-year-old when she was alone.
Neighbor Brandi Holder, who lives in the same apartment complex, said, “It’s sad and it’s scary, because it’s something that people do all of the time. She [Vancleave] did everything right. She went to a public place and they followed her home.”
Detectives do want to talk to two men seen in surveillance video at the Target store. The video shows the men walking in and out of the store, and then driving away in a red pickup. Officials are calling them “persons of interest.”
Arlington police have sent out a letter to residents encouraging anyone buying and selling items online to meet at police stations for the in-person transactions.
It was around this time last year when Arlington police set up a Safe Exchange Zone where online buyers and sellers can meet to exchange merchandise.
The Arlington Safe Exchange location is at the Ott Cribbs Public Safety Building at 620 W. Division Street. Signs outside the building mark the parking lot as a Safe Exchange Zone.
The Ott Cribbs building is the main facility for the Arlington Police Department and also houses the 911 Communications Center, Fire Department Administrative services and the Emergency Operations Center. The building is manned 24 hours a day and has a heavy police presence.
Regardless as to whether a buyer or seller is conducting a transaction in a safe zone, police say there are steps everyone can take to stay safe.
- Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Research both the product you are buying and the person selling to/buying from.
- Never list your home address, phone number, or anything else that could be used to identify you.
- Be wary of individuals who solicit your business without your permission.
- There is safety in numbers. Always take someone with you to conduct a transaction.
- Monitor your children’s internet activity.
- Never meet in out of the way locations.
- Conduct business in a public area with people nearby and never inside of a vehicle.
- Don’t allow the other party to change the location once you arrive.
But what do you do if you’ve made a transaction and something doesn’t feel right? If you think you’ve been followed call 911, or drive straight to a police station for help.
Investigators trying to solve Vancleave’s murder say they’re getting a lot of tips, but have made no arrests yet.
Anyone who recognizes the men seen in the video or has information about the incident that left Vancleave dead is asked to contact Arlington police at 817-459-5735.
Anonymous tips can also be made by calling Crime Stoppers at 817-469-8477.
Dallas-based Oak Farms Dairy is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and grand jury indictment of the person/persons responsible for Vancleave’s murder.
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