A scholarship fund is being planned in the name of Colorado teenager Riley Whitelaw, who was found murdered earlier this month in the break room at the Walgreens where she worked.
Her 28-year-old co-worker, Joshua Taylor Johnson, whom she had repeatedly complained about to management, was charged with her first-degree murder.
Friends and family of Ms. Whitelaw, an outstanding student at Air Academy High School in Colorado Springs, were preparing Wednesday for her funeral the following morning, as a GoFundMe in memory of the teenager had already raised more than three times your goal.
The site was created on June 12, a day after the girl’s shocking murder, by a team of fundraisers including Jeremy Model, with Mrs Whitelaw’s mother, Courtenay, as the beneficiary. His target on the list was $10,000 but he had already surpassed $32,600 on Wednesday.
“All funds will go towards a long-term scholarship fund in Riley’s name and genetic research projects that we think she would appreciate,” according to a GoFundMe message sent by Mr. Model to the independent.
“We feel all the love and support that the community has given us and we hope that people carry a little bit of Riley in their daily routine. Although she is only 17 years old, she is a unique human who knew how to be truly present for others.
“It’s not just her smile that permeates you, it’s her compassion and empathy. Be nice and be present.”
According to a Colorado Springs police news release, Ms. Whitelaw was found dead June 11 by her manager at a Walgreens on Centennial Boulevard in the city about 60 miles south of Denver.
Her coworker, Mr. Johnson, was arrested the next day after management revealed that Riley had allegedly reported being uncomfortable with his “advancements” a year earlier.
According to Mrs. Whitelaw’s obituary, which details her “short but rich life,” the teenager was known for her “empathy, patience, and compassion,” as well as being “dedicated, persistent, and passionate about everything she strove to try.” “.
The obituary adds: “Riley was a calm leader among her peers and was always willing to help those around her. Her passions were of an artistic nature, as she loved to draw or paint on canvas, as well as play a guitar. Her art was recognized throughout her life and she won many school and local awards.
“Not only did she get straight A’s during her time at Air Academy, but she was also an AAHS Colorguard member, worked part time and had just started volunteering at the Humane Society and found time to take care of pets. Riley inspired others through her art, her eclectic taste in music, and her “bright” personality.
Police arrived at the Walgreens where Ms. Whitelaw worked around 7 p.m. on the day of the murder after manager Justin Zunino made a 911 call, according to an affidavit. Mr. Zunino had informed dispatchers that he initially suspected something was amiss when another manager reported that Riley did not return from her break.
When he went to the store to investigate further, he said he “found a body in the break room” with “blood everywhere.”
Responding officers wrote in a report that “there was a large amount of blood on the floor around the victim’s head,” with a significant amount of blood smeared on “the break room floor, cabinets, and counter.” ”.
They assessed at the time that the victim had “significant trauma to the neck area,” and there were no signs of life.
Zunino tipped officers off to Johnson after seeing the employee on surveillance tapes before Riley’s body was found.
Zunino reportedly saw Johnson stack containers in front of one of the store’s surveillance cameras, until the frame was completely covered. The break room window was found taped up, with a sign reading “restroom closed.”
After viewing the tapes, the manager entered the break room and found the brutal crime scene.
The manager also noted that in addition to the videotapes, he had other reasons to suspect that Johnson committed a crime. According to the affidavit, a year before the deadly break room incident occurred, Riley had filed a complaint about Mr. Johnson’s co-worker for inappropriate “advancements” on him while they were working.
And then recently, the teenage employee had requested that managers refrain from putting the two of them on the same schedule, because her older co-worker had reportedly started making her “uncomfortable.”
Later, the teenager asked for more hours, but her superiors told her that if she wanted those hours, she would work alongside the man she had singled out a year earlier for inappropriate advances towards her.
Another store manager reportedly told police she saw the suspected killer as he was allegedly cleaning up in the dumpsters behind the store. She claimed to have smelled “a strong odor of bleach” and said that when she tried to open the door, she heard a man yell that he was changing.
When that manager came back later, he was gone.
Mr. Johnson was picked up the next morning by Colorado State Patrol officers approximately 100 miles from the Walgreens where his teenage co-worker had been killed and was found with what police described as scratch marks on his face and hands.
While being questioned by authorities, Mr. Johnson allegedly admitted to being “in love” with Riley and said that he had been inside the break room where she was killed, but was only there after her death.
“[Joshua] stated he fell in the blood,” the affidavit said, also noting that the man had admitted to being the person the manager had tried to talk to before leaving Walgreens. “He went home right after ‘that happened’ and took off all his clothes because they were all bloody.”
The suspect denied moving the containers in front of the surveillance camera, police said, even after they confronted him with the footage.
A Walgreens spokesperson said the independent that they are currently cooperating with the authorities in the investigation and offered their “deepest condolences” to the relatives and members of the community affected by the murder of the teenager.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident and express our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers to the family and loved ones of our team member,” the company spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “The safety of our customers and team members is the highest priority, and we are working with local authorities on their investigation. We are making counseling and other resources available to our store team members at this location.”
Ms Whitelaw’s death was followed by a harsh backlash against the chain store on social media, along with the hashtag #JusticeForRileyWhitelaw.
“Shame on you for allowing a culture of harassment, for IGNORING the mental health of an employee, for not taking the safety of an underage employee seriously, for handling an HR situation and telling the world that women DON’T they are safe in their store,” tweeted a user at Walgreens on Tuesday. “#JusticeForRileyWhitelaw.”
However, a Walgreens spokesperson told The Independent that the company will not “discuss the situation further at this time.”
The next Mr. Johnson is due in court on August 26.