Crime

In a Westwood cold case, a killer in an ‘Abraham Lincoln’ disguise was never found

David “Ray” Ninemire was fatally shot in a 2003 robbery at a Westwood grocery store. The case remains unsolved.
David “Ray” Ninemire was fatally shot in a 2003 robbery at a Westwood grocery store. The case remains unsolved.

In Westwood, people still talk about the unknown man who shot David “Ray” Ninemire during a 2003 robbery at a grocery store on Mission Road.

They say the robber wore a disguise — a black hat, a wig, a fake beard and a dark coat — that made him look like an Amish man or Abraham Lincoln. During an attempted holdup, he killed Ninemire, the store’s 68-year-old produce manager, and walked away.

Nearly 14 years later, the case remains unsolved, but it is not forgotten, said Westwood Police Chief Greg O’Halloran.

He still gets tips and questions about the case.

“It is not off the radar,” O’Halloran said. “This is a case that we know is very important to our community.”

At the time of the shooting, Ninemire worked the overnight shift at the Apple Market — now a Walmart Neighborhood Market at 4701 Mission Road — and was well-known in the city of about 1,500 that borders both Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan.

Early in the morning Aug. 15, 2003, Ninemire was just a few minutes from going home when the gunman in the disguise walked in and confronted a 70-year-old cashier, who screamed.

Ninemire rushed to his co-worker’s aid. The robber turned and fired, hitting Ninemire in the leg. Then the robber left, last spotted walking north toward Kansas City, Kan.

The bullet severed Ninemire’s femoral artery. Co-workers and police officers tried to save him, but he bled to death before medical help could arrive. Just days earlier, he had decided to retire.

Ninemire’s widow, Phyllis Ninemire, has never given up hope the killer might be found. She still hears from people who say a man matching the killer’s description had been seen in a Westwood neighborhood days before the robbery.

“There’s somebody out there who knows who did this,” Phyllis Ninemire said when reached by phone recently. The couple had been married for 44 years.

“I’m still in limbo,” she said.

The mayor at the time, Bill Kostar, has said the killing was a traumatic event for the city. It was Westwood’s first and only homicide.

The Westwood Police Department investigated, to no avail. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office also worked the case and remains the lead agency on it. Billboards went up offering cash for information — the reward at one time reached $35,000, boosted by $5,000 from a 2006 executive order by then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Many individuals and businesses donated reward money.

Today, the reward for information stands at $20,000, according to Detective Becky Crabtree of the sheriff’s office. A total of 30 tips have come through Greater Kansas City Crimestoppers and have been followed up on.

At this point, the suspect description is “useless,” Crabtree said. Apart from the disguise, the robber was described as being a young white man, about 5 feet, 5 inches tall.

The shooting was not caught on video. The only way the case is likely to be solved now, Crabtree said, is if someone talks.

“I believe the person who did this confided in someone,” Crabtree said. “It’s going to take getting to the right person. Or for the person who actually did it to get a conscience.”

Today, a memorial plaque to Ninemire stands beside the Walmart. It reads: “ ‘Ray’ is missed every moment of each day by his loving family and many friends.”

Ninemire is survived by Phyllis and the couple’s four children, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s office’s Investigations Division at 913-715-5560 or the Greater Kansas City Crimestoppers TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).

Case file

Name: David “Ray” Ninemire of Westwood

Age: 68

Circumstances of the crime: Fatally shot during an attempted robbery at the former Apple Market grocery store at 4701 Mission Road on Aug. 15, 2003.

Suspect information: Suspect was described as a white male, 5 feet, 5 inches tall, wearing a black hat, wig, fake beard and mustache, black knee-length coat and dark T-shirt.

Anyone with information is asked to call: Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Division at 913-715-5560 or Greater Kansas City Crimestoppers TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).

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