Papa John’s Inaction Ended in Murder

This is off topic for those looking for my typical poker articles.  If you want to read more about my past life before poker, I invite you to read this long article.

Twelve years ago today, I lost a close friend and coworker to murder.  Monica Tuttle was murdered at our workplace during an after hours robbery.

I still cannot get over what Papa John’s did and did not do that caused her to get murdered.  Papa John’s did not pull the trigger, but their incompetence and refusal to secure a store led to the situation that caused it.

Now that I write for a living, this seems like the time to expose their behavior and hope that it never happens again.  I will start with a background of the situation.

I started working for Papa John’s at 7277 Roswell Rd in Sandy Springs, GA in 1994.  I had two sources of income, one was working for the pizza place, and the other was beating local poker games.  You might even say the pizza job was a front for my poker playing.

The pizza job guaranteed my rent would be paid, and if I needed more money, hours were always there.  I would work 20-50 hours a week, depending on my need, how much I liked the employees, and how many poker games I was getting invited to.  I worked more with Monica because I liked her.

To give you an idea of manager turnover, Monica was my 22nd manager in six years, not including the times I would manage it after people would get fired or quit and they could not find replacements.

Lack of Secure Environment

The person that worked out of the corporate office as the supervisor was a complete jerk and he wanted Monica gone.  She did not want to be there either.  The neighborhood was really rough and went downhill more every day.

The parking lot was dark with no working lights.  The landlord and company would not do anything about it.  There was no back door to the store and no outside cameras.  Looking back, it was a pretty scary place to work.

I feel the company was wrong for creating such an unsafe working environment.  We did not even deliver after dark to the apartments that shared a majority of the property line with the store.

I grew up about a mile away so I probably felt safer than I should have, but I still complained constantly about the security problems.  I never dreamed it would lead to this.

Future Murderer Gets Hired

There was a thug that was a friend of someone that was a shift runner at this store.  The loser got a job because his friend recommended him.  He was useless and we figured he would stop showing up like they always do.  The problem was this one kept showing up because he liked a girl that worked there.

On Sunday, June 11, 2000, this guy showed the object of his affection a gun and bragged about it.  He was 20 years old, too young to legally possess a gun in Georgia.  Even if he was old enough, he cannot have it in the store.  The girl, who was only 16 or so, immediately told Monica that this guy had a gun in the store and he was showing it off to her.

Papa John’s Corporate Orders Victim to not Call Police

Monica called the supervisor of the store, who we all knew was a major problem.  He told Monica to send the felon home.  Monica said she was going to call the police.  Monica was told not to do that and to just send him home.

To make sure there was a witness to this order, she pulled me into the office to hear him tell her that in a follow up call on speaker phone.  Monica was too loyal to go against a direct order.  The supervisor later denied ever saying this, even though I heard it.

Monica fired her future assailant.  He left without incident. I considered calling the police, but the girl who saw the gun was scared and would not talk to me about it.

Warning from Neighboring Business

There was an auto detail shop next door. The murderer spent a lot of time over there talking to the guys that cleaned cars on the days following his termination.  The guys that worked over there told us we needed to watch out for this scumbag, they thought something bad was going to happen. They were right.

I did not call the police because I had not seen the gun and had no first hand knowledge of it, and nobody else seemed to want to get involved.  That is a decision I will regret every day for the rest of my life.

Ignored by Corporate Office

On Wednesday, June 14th, I called the Atlanta corporate office for Papa John’s.  I could not get anyone to take this situation seriously.  I got passed around from person to person who did not care and eventually was given the voice mail of the Atlanta Operational Vice President.  I left him a voice mail that told him I had “grave concerns” about the store and begged him to call me ASAP.  He never bothered to call me back.

It was important to get Monica out of that store immediately and her direct boss needed to get fired, but her boss was reportedly close to buying many franchises, which made him untouchable.  At the time, Papa John’s took care of anyone they thought would buy a franchise during their rapid expansion.

Monica cried in my arms multiple times that week about how scared she was.  I would hint that she should quit, but Monica was no quitter.

I was not some random whiner.  As far as I know, I was the biggest employee cash investor in the Atlanta market.  There were less than 100 publicly disclosed shareholders in the company that owned more stock than I did.  None of those shareholders were employed in the market.  My ownership was well known throughout the market’s management team.

My complaints were still ignored.  I sold my entire investment before leaving the company.

Friend That Referred Murder Bails on Working Night of Crime

On Friday, June 16th, the friend that referred the thug conveniently told Monica he could not work Saturday night.  I later suspected he knew what was going to happen, but was never able to prove it.  This employee was even allowed to continue working for the company after the murder.

Monica found someone to open on Saturday the 17th and she would close.  The opener was late and we had a big order due early, so Monica had to drive 20 miles to the store to help get the order out.  She was angry, and rightfully so, but eventually headed back home but had to be back in a few hours.

That night we were short staffed, and she called her husband and a close friend to come help her out who both worked for Papa John’s.  The night was the craziest night I had ever seen there.  I am pretty sure the day broke every record outside of the Olympics.

Something Was Not Right

The whole night felt wrong.  I cannot put it into words.  There was just something eerie.  At 11:30pm, I had been there for 14 hours.

Georgia used to have a law that you could not buy beer after 11:45pm on a Saturday.  I wanted to get beer before the cutoff.  I asked Monica if she would be OK and she said yes.  I asked, “Are you sure?”, implying I would come back but not outright offering.  She insisted that I go home and relax.  I would never see Monica alive again.

After I was home a couple of hours, I thought about calling the store to check on Monica.  Something just was not feeling right.  I then thought I would go up there and help her close. I had consumed a few beers though and thought better of it.

Monica was in my dreams all that night and I was restless.  The dreams were “day in the life.”  I knew something was wrong when I woke up.  I was not the only one that had those types of dreams that night.

Arriving to the Murder Scene

I was scheduled to open the store the next day, which was Father’s Day, June 18, 2000.  As I was driving south over the hill at Dalrymple Rd and Roswell Rd, I saw one police car over the horizon.   As I got closer, I saw our parking lot full of police cars.  I also saw Monica’s car parked in the exact same place it was the night before.  Every news channel in Atlanta was in the shopping center parking lot across the street.  I knew what had happened before even pulling in the parking lot.

“We’re Opening Anyway”

I pulled into the parking lot anyway and was stopped by a police officer.  I told them who I was and they let me proceed to the door where I was greeted by the store’s corporate supervisor, the one who wanted Monica gone.

He told me “There has been an accident, Monica is dead.”  He then told me to come back later because the store was opening in a few hours.  After nearly collapsing in shock by the callousness, I exploded in anger and started yelling at him because I knew this was no accident.  He had helped create the situation that got Monica killed.  The police pulled me away and took me in front of the neighboring apartments.

Initial Detective Interview on Scene

While I was still fuming, Detective Yates with the Fulton County Police Department came over and introduced himself.  The news crews were creeping closer, so he took me to the alley next to the building.  He asked me several questions about my background and my knowledge of store procedures and why I was so angry at the supervisor.  He left me with one last question, “Who did this?” and I answered “Carlous Gibbs, he lives in Spalding Bridge Apartments.”

After he asked me that, I looked over and noticed one of the detail shop guys pressure washing the sidewalk in the alley.  I had assumed she was killed in the store, but it was obvious she was killed just feet from where I was standing.  I will spare you the gory details of what I saw, an image I will never forget.

The dumpster had been completely emptied and garbage was all over the parking lot.  It had been picked through piece-by-piece by the police looking for evidence.

I had a breakdown in the alley, and eventually got enough composure to make it back to my car.  The detail shop employee came over and gave me a hug.  I asked him if I could use his phone because I did not have one on me.  He let me use it and I called my mom, my best friend from high school, and a couple of coworkers.  At some point, I had to get out of that parking lot, and finally got the composure to leave.

Face-to-Face with Murderer Minutes Later

The first thing I did after leaving was go up to the BP gas station at Dalrymple/Roswell Rd to let them know what happened.  I had gotten to know them well over the years.

While I was there, the murderer showed up and acted all surprised when he was told that Monica had been murdered.  When he left, I let the BP employees know it was him that murdered Monica.

Living Minutes from Murderer

I went home and called everyone whose number I knew that worked at the store what had happened.  It started to occur to me that the murderer lived less than a five minute walk from me.

I lived on Colquitt Rd in the Dunwoody Club Apartments (Treelodge Pky) and there was not even a fence separating it from Spalding Bridge where the murderer lived.  I got paranoid and had to get out of there.  Luckily, I had several friends that took me in for a couple of days.

Full Interview with Detectives

Two days after the murder, I went to the Major Crimes Division of the Fulton County Police Department and got interviewed for about six hours.  I have never been somewhere so stressful in my life.  I was drenched in sweat, but wanted to help them.

Several times they accused me of having an affair with Monica and I denied it each time.  Nothing had ever happened, nor ever would have.  After several accusations, I blew up and told them I was going to leave.  They finally left that alone and I calmed down.

They were very concerned about my poker, which they had dug up somehow.  I proved to them I was in no need of money.  They were also very concerned about who I called on the day of the murder and why I used the detail employee’s cell phone.  The interview finally ended.

My sister, who is an attorney, thought I was crazy not to have her or another attorney there for questioning.  In hindsight, she was right.

I found out when I was there that my neighbor was a police officer.  They notified him that a witness in the case was his neighbor and he watched out for me.  When I touched base with coworkers after the interview, I was told they had the murderer in custody at that same time.  I was very relieved.  The police released him later that same day.

Store Reopens

On Wednesday, June 21st there was a meeting at the store.  We were told the store would reopen in two days.  The revenue for the first three days would go to her husband.

I worked that weekend to show support and put my tips in the collection jar.  After that, I was told that since I was a witness on the case, I could no longer work at the store.

Papa John’s offered no alternative.  I was basically laid off.  I was one of several employees told that.  I applied enough pressure to get us paid leave, threatening to go to a news channel to blow the whistle on them.  I am glad I never did, as I did not want to blow the case.  I eventually worked for friends in another area, great friends I made due to this horrible tragedy.

Funeral

Monica’s funeral was on Thursday, June 22nd.  I spoke at the funeral, but have never remembered what I said.  Several of us that worked at the store went to the Masquerade for 80’s night that night like we sometimes did, just to try to have some sort of normalcy.  After this tragedy, the group went to 80’s night weekly, where I eventually met my wife.

Police Lost Him

Weeks went by, and the murderer was still at-large.  I later found out the police had lost him.  One night, I got dropped off from 80’s night and my police officer neighbor opened his door at 4:30am and let me know he had run off someone matching the description of the murderer who was hiding in a back stairwell to my apartment building about an hour before I got home.  It could have been a coincidence, but who knows.

Keep in mind that his friend that referred him, that got out of working the night of the murder, had access to all employee information, including addresses.  Referring someone that murdered an employee and calling out the night of the murder is not grounds for termination, or even a demotion, at Papa John’s.  The company apparently had no problem with giving this type of person access to employee information related to witnesses in the case.

I pointed out the fact that this employee should not have access to employee files to upper management, but it fell on deaf ears.  Before I could get too in my head about that, the murderer was located and arrested just a few days later.

Confession

After being arrested, the murderer fully confessed, and he eventually pleaded guilty.  He is serving life in prison (Update: He will be released after serving less than 20 years.)

I was always curious about the case.  Open records laws allow anyone to see the entire file, but I did not want to see the crime scene photos.  I had already seen enough in person.

Another Robbery at Store – Female Victim Assaulted

Many of us begged the company to close the store permanently.  Instead, the company finished a remodel that had just started when the crime happened.  Within a few months, there was an armed robbery at the same store where a female employee got beat up, but her life was spared.

The company still did not close the store until much later, after a replacement store was built.  Papa John’s clearly did not care how unsafe this store was.  Sales were obviously more important.

Learned Full Details

A month or so before moving to South Dakota in 2006, I ran into Detective Yates.  I asked him about the case and he told me many details I had never known.  There is no reason to go into the gory details, but if anyone wants to know, contact me privately.

I worked for a couple of friends in the company while I still played poker.  When online poker exploded in 2003, I got to the point where I was losing money by going to work so I quit and never looked back.

You Can Never Be Too Careful

I have never shared this full story with anyone, only bits and pieces, and I needed to share it.  I hope it makes people understand my obsession with security.  I know my South Dakota friends never understood why I would never leave someone alone at the Happy Tavern at closing, I hope this makes that more clear.  All I can say is that you can never be too careful.

14 thoughts on “Papa John’s Inaction Ended in Murder

  1. John, I know this was really hard to share, and as a person who worked there at one point with you (not at that time), I can agree about security issues, and them being only driven by profit and what benefits their company and makes them money, it’s a tragedy that your dear friend has to lose her life over their mistakes & screw up,,,, I’m so sorry about this, my prayers are with you as you go through this difficult time remembering this,

  2. John, thanks for taking the time to write all this. During the time that you and I worked at the Domino’s that was about a quarter-mile north of that Papa John’s on Roswell Rd., I was victim of two robberies, and I knew other drivers who were also victims. The difference is that none of them ever lost their lives, so I can’t pretend to know how it feels to have carried the feelings that have hung on your mind since 2000. The industry is dangerous enough without middle and upper management showing mere lip service to security concerns.

    I also attended Monica’s funeral, and remember meeting you there. That’s probably the last time our paths crossed. I attended to support my friend Greg Grimes, who was also working at that store when you were. He called me sometime in the evening of June 18, to tell me of Monica’s murder, and was bawling uncontrollably during the whole call. (As an aside–his 40th birthday was the day of the funeral. I met him and his family for dinner for his 50th birthday, and we spent a little time thinking back to that day ten years previously.)

    I’m pleased to know you got into a safer line of work. Took me a *little* longer to come to my senses, but I finally put the pizza-delivery business in my rearview mirror about two years ago. I still noodle about on tipthepizzaguy.com, though, where I saw the link to this essay. I’m still concerned about conditions in the industry, mostly because my tenant works for Domino’s in Atlanta. Last week he told me of a Domino’s delivery driver who was murdered in Cedartown, GA, on June 8.

    http://www.tipthepizzaguy.com/discussion/thread.php?num=20362&ip=1

    I probably told you this at the funeral, but please allow me to do so again…I am very sorry for the death of someone whom you obviously liked and respected, in a crime that could probably have been prevented.

    • This happened in 2000 and news stories of that era are only kept in archives behind paywalls. The only mention of it on the internet that I can find is here:

      http://www.ajc.com/hotjobs/content/metro/stories/deathpenalty/daytwo/dpfulton_0924.html

      Search for Papa John’s in that long article about the death penalty.

      “Carlous Gibbs, 20
      Gibbs robbed and killed Monica Tuttle, the manager of a Papa John’s pizza restaurant in Sandy Springs who had fired him a few weeks earlier in 2000. Gibbs used the stolen money to buy a tattoo and pay his probation officer.”

      The little blurb isn’t right either, it was not weeks earlier, it was one week.

      At the time there were many videos and stories but over the years the articles made their way into archives or were deleted altogether.

  3. John,

    I was watching a show on TV about a homicide detective tonight and it made me think back to the night of Monica’s murder. My wife and I attended her funeral as well since we were friends of hers and were in the business as well. Many hearts were broken that night and I can still recall seeing JS in attendance at the funeral and as he walked past afterward, just getting a sense of his total lack of concern about what had happened and seemingly being anxious to be somewhere else. I also can’t imagine the pain her husband went through or what Mitch lived through as my understanding is that he went to look for her when she didn’t come home and was the one that found her.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I hope that anyone working in the business now pays attention to what has happened before and makes their own safety priority one.

    RIP Monica

  4. Hi, I was the Assistant Manager at the Chamblee store (next store east of Roswell store) when this happened. I had a really hard time at this store and I used to talk to Monica almost daily for advice and to vent since we had the same supervisor (Tim White).

    I was actually hired by Tim and I never had any issues with him. He was a nice guy but mostly his hands were tied about things because of Corporate policies and higherups in that company. I worked for Papa John’s corporate two different times and hated it both times because of bad personnel choices they would frequently make. We would frequently joke that their hiring technique was if you held a mirror to their face and they fogged up the mirror…they were hired. Our GM who had no pizza experience was hired by Tim and then after a few months burnt out and took a leave of absence. That left me running the store by myself as an assistant. I was on salary as was expected to work 80 hours a week or more for no extra pay. I was stressed out to say the least. I used to call Monica at night at the store and we’d talk about our crazy situations and she’d tell me how stressed out she was and how she always wanted to not be there. I last talked to her the day before her death. I felt terrible about what had happened.

    I always had to deal with terrible employees that were hired by Papa John’s supervisors or GM’s. 2 years before this I was promoted to GM of the North Deshong store near stone mountain. I inherited employees that should never have been hired in the first place. The assistant said it was ok to take money from the till for personal use. One of the drivers was taking funds that customers gave him for orders and buying cocaine from a dealer while on the clock. When I confronted him about this, he robbed me. I was there a week with no support from my supervisor who had gone on a trip to las vegas with other supervisors and higherups from corporate. I quit, walked out! They begged me to come back and I agreed because I needed a job. They made me an assistant at a store in Lawrenceville because I told them I would never go back to North Deshong. I met Trevor (GM) there. He liked me and said he wanted me to work at the Jimmy Carter store during the 13th anniversary. After the first week of the promotion he quit, walked out! He was offered a supervisor job in PA and left me running the store by myself. I was put in a really bad position of having to run this store by myself with his questionable hires and was not given any extra pay to work double the hours on salary. Randy Moen was the supervisor there and was always mad at me for not taking on the role of GM even though I was not paid as one. I was only paid $400 a week and he wanted me to do all of the GM stuff plus work 80 hours a week. It was crazy! I also found out that Trevor had been molesting one of his phone girls who was only 16 and of course she was in love with him. She told me everything that they did because we were working together all of the time and was upset that he had left without even a goodbye.

    So anyways, Tim White took a leave of abscence after Monica’s death. I was told his mother was dying. A new supervisor was brought in and he called me, I believe on a Wednesday evening. It was Trevor. He was back from PA and called to let me know he was the new supervisor. He was laughing saying that he was my boss again and he was going to make my life a living hell. I told him that I would not work for a liar and a child molester. I told him that I quit and he could come run the store himself. I told all the drivers to give me their money. I was closing the store for the night right then at 9pm. I did my paperwork, put everything up, cleaned the store, made the deposit, locked the store and left.

    I went back to a franchisee who had a store in Loganville, Dean Thompson. Probably the best boss I had ever worked for. Corporate in Atlanta did some pretty criminal things back then and they certainly are responsible for much suffering that went on.

  5. John, I was in the office with you when Monica called the dickhead supervisor.I gave the police all of the specifics on the gun he showed me.MAKE , MODEL CALIBER. U know who I am.YO U HELPED ME BOOK A FLIGHT ONLINE .I WaS interviewed several times . I remember a PJs female supervisor thanking me for bravely being a witness .I was not brave because I was not afraid of him , because only a pxxxy would shoot a defenseless young woman. At the time the detectives told me that carlos was
    afraid of me.He probably will not be after jail time.Maybe we will all get lucky and he will come looking for me. God save the Queen

    • I know exactly who you are and I am happy to hear from you. I hope all is well in what you are doing these days. Thank you for sharing. Carlos is scheduled for release in about four years. There is no parole hearing but we can email the parole board with victim impact statements.

      • John, I am fine,at 61 I am still climbing up trees and shooting arrows through bambi and his relatives,if rudolph shows up I will put ah arrow through that little red nosed bugger too, and the same goes for certain others too! I am glad that you are doing well. I live on a very large estate south of were we worked.I provide security there and for a couple more large properties.I would be happy to work with you on the impact statements. it would be good if we were on the same page

  6. Monica was our GM @ Powder Springs Rd store . This is a part of my life ,I will never forget , It was a horrible thing to happen to a sweet young girl . She worked so hard, I quit PPJ`s after 18 years ,,I could`nt take anymore ,,,Tim I hope you are doing good with your life ,,Considering….Judy Roberson

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