Local News

Legacy of love overshadows Wilson woman's sudden death

Posted May 20, 2011

— Rochelle Pender's family and co-workers were stunned Friday to learn that the smiling Walmart greeter was dead. Police said employees at the 2500 Forest Hills Road store were chasing a suspected shoplifter Wednesday when someone ran into Pender. She fell and hit her head and died two days later.

"She's just doing her job and was in the wrong place," said Sgt. John Slaughter of the Wilson Police Department.

Store security caught up to Joshua Max Lambert, 23, of 3108 Walnut Creek Drive, Apt. A, and held him until police arrived. Police charged Lambert with two counts of simple assault. He was being held in the Wilson County jail Friday under a $5,000 secured bond.

"She did not deserve to die this kind of death," said Pender's daughter, Teresa Langley.

Rochelle Pender Wilson shoplifting case turns death investigation

Langley said she had begged her mother to stop working, but she gave up when she realized how important the role was to Pender.

"A lot of people her age are not even working. She hung onto her job after we lost our dad because that gave her life," Langley said.

Pender's grandson, Tyler Hayes, said he would remember her quick wit and sense of humor. "She was a character," he said. "She was a trip to be around."

A Walmart spokesman said Pender, 71, had been with the company for 15 years and was a beloved member of the team at the Wilson store.

"She's going to be greeting people in heaven now," Langley said.


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  • nojusticeintheworld May 25, 2011

    greenvillehillbillies is CORRECT! This "guy" is waiting for a court date for MULTIPLE felonies he committed previously. A thoughtless person from the neighborhood where he committed these crimes got him out of jail and brought him back to live there! After being told he could not live in the apartment, she let him live in his car in her driveway! The police said there was nothing they could do about it - the landlord of the property would have to get him for trespassing. They did nothing! Having a car without a tag is against the rental agreement for the neighborhood; so why did the landlord NOT do something about it? Having the car towed Monday evening was too little too late. Hopefully, they feel responsible for ignoring complaints about this thief.I hope the person who got him out of jail also feels guilty for Ms Pender's death...
    Hindsight is 20/20, but there were so many actions and nonactions that led to the events of her senseless death. Ms Pender will be greatly missed!

  • shortcake53 May 23, 2011

    What a horrible set of events. My sympathy to her family and friends. Just makes you shake your head and ask "why"?

  • greenvillehillbillies May 23, 2011

    There is an address listed for this guy. In all actuality he was living out of his car (mustang with no tags) that was parked at the address listed. I live in this neighborhood and sadly this guy has been trouble and numerous reports have been made regarding him in the neighborhood to both the police and the property management. From my understanding, he was already awaiting a court date for breaking and entering into a home in the neighborhood. We have felt unsafe for some time. I hate that this happened to this lady and her family. I am glad that he is off of the streets and hope it stays that way!

  • pebbles262004 May 23, 2011

    No, the store security is not the one's that ran into her..it was the guy that had stole from the store ..he push her out of his was, so he could get out of the door.

  • pebbles262004 May 23, 2011

    This is a sad story, I have a friend that works there at the same wal-mart...this woman died because of a light bulb..that's what was stolen.

  • anonemoose May 20, 2011

    1st, for felony murder, he has to have been committing one of a few certain felonies to be charged. Shoplifting and misdemeanor larceny do not count.

    2nd, in NC it is legally permissible to resist an unlawful arrest by the popo, so it defiantly is okay to run from WalMart loss prevention.

    3rd, if they even had the low level of proof that meets the level of probable cause, I am sure that he would have been charged with shoplifting or larceny also.

    4th, prior conduct doesn't mean he was doing it this time. Maybe he was going to, but evidently he didn't make it....

  • readerman May 20, 2011

    Shame on him!

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman May 20, 2011

    puggybelle - " I was hired to work at Walmart a few years back and was told that if I see someone in the act of shoplifting...call security and let them handle it. Unless they've changed the rules, they're supposed to monitor the suspect and watch him actually leave the store before approaching him."

    Did you read the story completely?

    That's what was happening. The security people ran the old lady down in pursuit of the perp, and yes - chasing down a running robber is also part of their job. I use to work for them too.

  • puggybelle May 20, 2011

    This is an awful story in many ways. I hope that 71-year old woman worked at Walmart because she wanted to, not because she had to in order to make ends meet.

    Then there is this chase business. I was hired to work at Walmart a few years back and was told that if I see someone in the act of shoplifting...call security and let them handle it. Unless they've changed the rules, they're supposed to monitor the suspect and watch him actually leave the store before approaching him. I mean, it's not shoplifting until he exits the store without paying for the merchandise. Employees in a foot-chase with the suspect thru the store? Sounds like the employees in Wilson need some re-training.

    I feel so bad for this lady and her friends and family. This should not have happened.

  • Rebelyell55 May 20, 2011

    Someone posted the law concerning the law of murder. I would say he's going get some additional charges. Some die by the act of him committing a crime. Don't matter if was the over zealous employees, the fact is his action cause the death of a person. He should be charged for 1st degree murder.