Tuesday, April 05, 2011

TOP STORY >> Murder second tragedy in family

Leader staff writer

Longtime used-car salesman and pawnshop owner Billy Joe Pipkin was shot and killed Monday afternoon during a robbery at his business, KBC Pawn Shop at 3650 Hwy. 367, near Cabot.

The Lonoke County sheriff is investigating the murder. The ATF has offered a $5,000 reward to anyone with information resulting in the arrest and conviction of Pipkin’s murderer.

Lt. Jim Kulesa, spokesman for the sheriff’s department, said Pipkin had been shot once and it appeared that some merchandise was missing. He described the case as a robbery, homicide and arson. Kulesa said investigators from the Arkansas State Police and Cabot Police Department are assisting with the investigation. He is asking residents to report suspicious activity around the building by calling the sheriff’s office at 501-676-3003.

This is not the first time for violent crime to strike the Pipkin family. Pipkin, 60, was the son of Abe Pipkin, then 71, a Beebe police officer who was beaten to death with a crowbar on April 5, 1977, when he came upon a robbery at a drug store. The elder Pipkin’s murder went unsolved for 25 years until Gary Lee Evans confessed to his girlfriend that he had killed him. Evans was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Billy Joe Pipkin searched 25 years for his father’s killer.

Today, the family mourns the loss of a husband, a father and a grandfather.

He and his wife Julie were married 40 years and lived in the house a few steps away from the KBC Pawn Shop and car lot on Hwy. 367 just south of the Cabot city limits. They had four grown children–a son, Dennis Harbison, three daughters, Kelly Knighton, Billi Douglas and Crystal Busby and 10 grandchildren.

“He took care of his kids and took care of his family,” Kelly said.

Julie said her husband “was a Christian man, full of kindness. I love and miss him. They didn’t have to do that, they didn’t have to set fire to our pawnshop. We would have given them the stuff. He had just taken a diabetes shot and in less than 10 minutes he was gone.”

Pipkin opened the KBC in 1996 using the first initials of his daughters’ names in the business’ name. He accepted boats, trailers and even a mobile home.

Before being a pawnshop broker, Pipkin was a used-car salesman, getting into the business at age 26.

“You’ll never make money and be happy unless you work for yourself,” was a quote her father would often say, Kelly said.

Billi and Kelly said their dad went to work every day. One night he went to the hospital for surgery and the next day he went back to work at the pawn shop. He never took a vacation.

According to his daughters, their father would do anything that he could to turn a dime into a dollar. He installed advertising billboards behind his property in view of Hwy. 67/167. He owned rental houses and the business complex on Hwy. 367 that is the location of Treadway electrical-supply store and a package-shipping center.

He owned a machine shop next to Tastee Freez on South Second Street. Pipkin also had many used-car lots in Cabot. One lot was located on the backside of First Security Bank before the kink was taken out of West Main Street in downtown.

“He was always so giving. He was very generous. He gave his money away–more than he spent,” Kelly said.

Billi said he would help others get started in the business. He was willing to answer any questions for new owners.

Billi and Kelly recalled their father would give smoked turkeys at Christmas to loyal customers who bought multiple cars from him at his used-car lot. Billi said one time Pipkin and a friend wanted to try smoking lobsters. The lobsters were frozen so the two put newspapers down on the vehicles and thawed the lobsters on all the cars.

“He loved to cook and eat,” Kelly said.

“When we were little we hunted cars to buy on Saturday and Sunday in the paper. If we looked and bought, one of us was driving it home. He had us working in the car business before we were walking,” Billi said.

Pipkin liked to buy small Toyota or Nissan trucks or Honda cars.

Kelly said they spent many hours cleaning the vehicles. She got her hardship license at age 14 so she could help drive cars from the auto auctions. Kelly said the car lot was a family business; they were there to help but the business and cars were all her father’s.

Billi said she would often drive to high school in a car and by the afternoon, she would have to look at the dealer license plate because her father had sold the car and left her with another.

“He traded his vehicles every six months,” Kelly said.

“Everything I have is for sale except for my wife, kids and dogs,” was a favorite saying of Pipkin.

“That was his passion, he loved cars. He was trying to sell this place. He was needing to retire,” Kelly said.

Pipkin went to school in Cabot completing the ninth grade. He had trouble reading but he knew numbers. He played football and baseball and wanted to be in the Major League, according to Kelly.

Pipkin loved following sports. He attended all the Cabot High School football games rain or snow. He sat on the 50-yard line on the top row of the bleachers despite his son not playing football.

Pipkin was a softball coach. “He liked to be around older kids,” Kelly said.

“He always had a toothpick in his mouth,” family friend Ariel Melby said.

“And gum, that’s what I got him for Christmas, a big ol’ pack of gum from Sam’s,” Kelly said.