Store owner had handled armed intruders before

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

WAPPAPELLO, Mo. -- Friday was the second time in fewer than four years the owner of Bud's Country Store had confronted would-be robbers inside his business.

This time, Gary Lee "Bud" Ayers wasn't as lucky as he was Nov. 22, 1998.

Shortly after closing Friday night, Ayers, 52, re-entered the store where authorities believe he surprised someone.

He was killed by a single shot to the chest, possibly from his own shotgun that he kept at the store.

Members of the Butler County Sheriff's Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol continue their investigation in Ayers' death during what appears to be a robbery.

"It is true there was an altercation with another subject inside his store 3 1/2 years ago and he was able to gain control of that," said Butler County chief deputy Rick Sliger. "There is no reason to assume that is in any way connected to this situation."

According to earlier newspaper reports, in November 1998 Ayers was preparing to open the store at about 3:30 a.m. when he caught a young man -- later identified as Charles Joseph "CJ" Youngberg, then 18, of Wappapello -- hiding in the office. After the pair scuffled for a moment, Youngberg fled the scene.

Youngberg's accomplice -- Chad Eric Cox, then 19, of Virginia, Ill., -- remained hidden in the store.

When Ayers went back into the office, he found Cox standing there with his shotgun pointed at him.

Knowing the gun wasn't loaded, Ayers grabbed the gun away.

But during the scuffle, he was thrown against the wall and suffered a dislocated shoulder.

Cox ran out the door and across the parking lot. Ayers gave chase as he loaded the gun and fired a shot. Authorities later learned that Cox was struck in the right leg by a pellet, but was not seriously injured.

Youngberg was arrested about two weeks later. Cox was later arrested in Cass County in west-central Illinois and returned to Butler County.

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