30 Days to a Safer Neighborhood: Victims Still Healing - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

30 Days to a Safer Neighborhood: Elm Grove Pharmacy Robbery Victims Still Healing

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WHEELING -

Officials say prescription drug abuse is a big problem in West Virginia, but it doesn't only hurt the people who abuse those drugs.

The victims of crimes relating to prescription drug abuse are left to pick up the pieces.

Stacee Hess was one of those victims in 2012, and more than a year later, the fear is fresh in her memory. "Over by the register is where he jumped over the counter," Hess pointed out when 7 News Anchor Jamie Ward caught up with her inside Elm Grove Pharmacy in Ohio County.

Hess comes to work each day, surrounded by visual reminders of the day her life was turned upside down.

"His unfortunate final resting area is on the floor right behind me," she recalls while motioning over her shoulder. "For the longest time we had a very hard time walking across that area until we moved the display behind me to cover up the area where it was."

On May 25, 2012, a masked man, carrying a gun, walked through the pharmacy's front door. That man was Kevin Walnoha, and he didn't walk back out with what he came for.

He was shot and killed by the pharmacy's owner.

Hess is often asked what was going through her mind when Walnoha was holding a gun to her head.

On May 15 of this year, her emotional recollection of that moment brought tears to the eyes of those inside an Ohio County courtroom.

"All I was thinking, that day at that time, was, what would my husband and kids do without me, and will my daughter ever forgive me if I die today on her birthday," Hess spoke out in court the day Melody Fisher, Walnoha's accomplice, was sentenced to 30 years behind bars.

Hess has been in therapy since June of 2012. Preparing for Fisher's trial, meant remembering every detail about the incident, and learning how to let go of those details after a year of remembering them, Hess admits, has been difficult.

She also admits that she doesn't feel safe anymore, and believes the increased violence in our communities is evolving around drugs.

Even with heightened security inside the pharmacy, Hess still has a hard time letting go of her fear each time someone walks through the door.

"It's not something that just goes away," she said. "It's something you deal with every single day. Your family deals with it every single day."

While the road hasn't been easy for the Hess family, the tragedy brought them closer together.

"My kids every day tell me ‘love you' before I go out the door, because they don't know what's going to happen when I'm still here," Hess said.

For now, she's taking life day by day.

"I still don't sleep a whole lot, still have nightmares," Hess admits, but says there is also a sense of relief, that Fisher is in jail. "I don't have to worry about her for a long time."