Law enforcement describes Elkview McDonald’s stabbing, robbery as ‘crime of opportunity’

Law enforcement describes Elkview McDonald's stabbing, robbery as "crime of opportunity"
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 7:53 PM EST
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ELKVIEW, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Just a day after Kanawha County deputies arrested and arraigned Richard Thornton, who they say stabbed and robbed a 56-year-old customer inside the Elkview McDonald’s, regulars said Wednesday that they’re shocked by what happened.

“It’s very unusual in this area,” said Jim Charley, who works near the McDonald’s and sometimes stops by the restaurant. “You really don’t expect to see or hear things like that happening in this area.”

Kanawha County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Joe Crawford expressed similar sentiments at a news conference Wednesday.

“It is kind of out of character for what happened at the McDonald’s,” he told reporters. “We like to think it was an isolated incident, but I don’t perceive that being a problem area.”

Crawford said Thornton had gotten off his scheduled shift at McDonald’s around 3 p.m. Tuesday and was waiting for a ride.

He said Thornton had been known to visit his workplace when he was not scheduled.

The victim, Crawford said, had just placed an order inside the restaurant before heading to the restroom.

“Mr. Thornton followed the victim to the restroom, pulled a knife out, then robbed the gentleman, took his wallet and some other belongings, then robbed and stabbed the victim in the facial and neck area,” Crawford said.

Crawford said there had not been any indication there was a disturbance before the stabbing or any indication that Thornton and the victim knew one another.

“We don’t believe this was targeted,” he said. “We believe this may have been a crime of opportunity. More so than anything else, I would consider this a very vicious, heinous act.”

The Tuesday incident had not been Thornton’s first run-in with deputies.

In September 2019, he faced two accounts of attempted murder after chasing medics with a knife near the Elkview exit on Interstate 79.

At the time, Kanawha County deputies had been called to Elkview on reports of a suspicious person near the old Herbert Hoover High School.

Thornton told deputies he was high on meth and possibly bath salts. Medics had been called to transport him to a hospital because of his condition.

The criminal complaint at the time said when a medic tried to treat him, he pulled a knife from his pocket and tried to stab them, then had apparently escaped with the knife as he was trying to get him back into the ambulance.

Kanawha County court officials told WSAZ that the case had been transferred to circuit court and in 2022 Thornton pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted malicious wounding of emergency personnel and had been supervised to one year of supervised probation starting in August 2022.

The victim is still being treated for serious injuries. He is listed in serious condition.

WSAZ asked McDonald’s representatives what they knew about Thornton’s background and how long he had been employed by McDonald’s.

Instead, McDonald’s owner and operator John Ebert gave the following statement:

“I am extremely disturbed by this behavior and am grateful to those employees who took action and called for medical assistance. My organization has no tolerance for violence of any kind. We took swift action, and I can confirm this individual is no longer employed by my organization. We are fully cooperating with the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office in their investigation.”