Truckers’ murders highlight need for ‘Jason’s Law’ passage

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Both were robbed and murdered while parked in their trucks after arriving early for their appointment times.

Tampa Police announced on Monday, June 20, that Cedric Jermaine Barnes, 28, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of independent truck driver Roger Lee, 66, of Nicholls, GA.

Tampa Police Det. Eric Houston said Lee was fatally shot for $15 while parked outside of the Clorox manufacturing plant in Tampa at approximately 3:55 a.m. on Feb. 22, 2008.

“He (Lee) was told that he couldn’t pull the truck into the secured area until 8 o’clock,” Houston told Land Line Now on Tuesday, June 21. 

Instead, Houston said Lee went back to his truck and was working on a model airplane in his sleeper berth when Barnes allegedly entered the truck cab through the driver’s door, robbing Lee and then shooting him in the chest.

“Mr. Lee was able to get out of the truck and make it to the guard shack, both walking and crawling, before he expired on the scene there,” Houston said.

In March 2011, Houston resubmitted a fingerprint found on the inside of Lee’s wallet to a national database system, which turned up Barnes’ name. At the time of the murder, Houston said Barnes, who is currently incarcerated in a Florida prison on unrelated burglary charges, lived just eight blocks away from the Clorox manufacturing plant.

“He (Barnes) was interviewed and denied knowing Mr. Lee or ever being in his truck or ever touching his wallet or anything else that had to do with the crime,” Houston said. “Following that interview, he told an associate of his that he did in fact commit the murder and he was angry because he only got $15 from Mr. Lee.”

OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz told Land Line that safe and secure truck parking is a serious issue in many metropolitan areas of this country. 

“Many truckers know all too well the Catch-22 of not wanting to add to rush-hour congestion and then end up arriving late for an appointment, so they arrive early at a shipper or receiver to ensure an on-time arrival,” Rajkovacz said. “Everyone wants what’s in the trailer but nobody seems to want to help the trucker by giving him a safe place to land.”

On Thursday, June 23, OOIDA is urgings its members and their families to call their lawmakers in Washington, DC, as part of a National Call in Day, to support Jason’s Law bills in Congress. The bills are named for Jason Rivenburg, who was fatally shot while parked in his truck cab in South Carolina in March 2009. Two Jason’s Law bills in the U.S. House –  HR1803 – and Senate – S1187 –address the shortages of long-term parking for commercial vehicles along the nation’s highways.

“We spend ‘gazillions’ of highway dollars making sure grass is mowed along highways, flowers are planted as part of beautification efforts, or bike paths are built in cities for the few dozen politically vocal riders who use them,” Rajkovacz said. “These bills are modest when compared to those expenditures. Considering the significant safety issues involved and that truckers pay about 35 percent of all the money into the Highway Trust Fund, it’s time to use some of that money for their benefit.”