Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2014

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Woman arrested in slaying of restaurant night manager

A 19-year-old woman who was fired from a Henderson Applebee's restaurant days before the night manager was stabbed and shot in August 2003 has been charged with his slaying.

Elyse Marie Palmer, a former Green Valley High School student, is being held without bail at the Clark County Detention Center in connection with the death of 45-year-old Thomas B. Farrell.

Palmer was arraigned Tuesday in Henderson Justice Court on charges of murder with a deadly weapon, robbery with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary.

Henderson Police arrested Palmer on June 15 but the apprehension was not announced until Tuesday because of a police department mixup, Officer Shane Lewis, Henderson Police spokesman, said.

"Someone went on vacation and it (an announcement about the arrest) fell between the cracks," Lewis said.

The belated news of the arrest brought relief Tuesday to employees of the Applebee's where Farrell worked on Stephanie Road by the Galleria at Sunset mall.

"I'm just glad this can all finally come to an end," Tony Disano, one of four managers at Applebee's, said. "I'm glad for his family and for his family he had here" at the restaurant.

"We really lost a nice man when we lost Tom and we're not going to be able to get him back," Disano said. "But a lot of people will be happy when they hear the news."

According to the arrest report obtained by the Sun, acquaintances described Palmer as "an extremely violent person and as a heavy methamphetamine user."

She allegedly tried to elicit help from acquaintances in robbing the restaurant. Police could make additional arrests, they said.

A day manager reporting for work discovered Farrell dead inside the restaurant on the morning of Aug. 25. He spotted what he thought was soda on the floor of the kitchen, but then realized it was blood, the report says.

An autopsy revealed that Farrell had been shot twice, in the upper left side of his back and in the right side of his chest, and his throat had been cut.

Police found the restaurant safe open and empty, and several empty cash register drawers were on the floor in the office.

Restaurant officials gave police a list of employees, past and present, but one name not on the list was Palmer's, the arrest report says. The report does not explain how Palmer's name was left off that list.

Detectives began investigating Palmer's possible involvement in the crime after she told police about a week later that she thought an acquaintance had taken part in the slaying.

They encountered her Sept. 3 while investigating a family disturbance at an apartment. Palmer was not believed to be involved in the altercation, but while police investigated the fight, Palmer mentioned to officers that she thought a man who lived in the apartment had played a role in the murder and robbery at Applebee's.

Police learned that Palmer had been fired from Applebee's on Aug. 19, less than a week before the murder, after working there for two or three months.

She was terminated "for being a poor employee," the report says, and because she was believed to have used illegal drugs in the break room.

A friend of Palmer's told detectives that Palmer set up a robbery "based on knowing the schedule of a manager that worked at the business," the arrest report says. Palmer "had told her friends when to come into the restaurant and what to do," according to the police report.

Palmer told her friend that the manager was shot, "but that no one was supposed to be shot during the robbery," the report says.

When detectives tried to find Palmer at her mother's home, she told them her daughter had left town because police were trying to question her about the Applebee's murder, according to police.

Detectives spoke to a boy June 8 who was being held in the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center on unrelated charges. He told police Palmer had asked him and several others to rob Applebee's.

Palmer allegedly told them she would set it up and would wait outside with a walkie talkie, "and they would just have to give her a cut of what they were able to get," the report says.

The boy said a friend convinced him not to get involved with the robbery plot, the report says.

The last time he had seen Palmer, she "had changed her appearance" and "told him she was wanted by the FBI for murder and that she was trying to leave the state," the boy allegedly told police.

She also told him she would probably flee to California or St. Louis, according to the arrest report.

Detectives tracked Palmer down at her grandmother's apartment on North Torrey Pines Drive at Lake Mead Boulevard and arrested her.

Mike Shaw, 36, of Henderson said Tuesday afternoon as he left the restaurant that the homicide "was a shock because it is such a good, clean, safe area."

"You would figure that it might be a former employee that maybe has ill feelings toward the restaurant," Shaw continued. "If she used to work there she'd know where the safe was and things like that. I am surprised that she is so young though.

"I wouldn't be surprised if drugs were involved somehow," he added.

A spokeswoman for Applebee's International in Overland Park, Ill., said the $30,000 reward the corporation was offering in connection with Farrell's death could be paid out after those responsible had been convicted.

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