ROCK HILL — Edna Johnson craved a gravy biscuit early Sunday when she pulled into the Rock Hill McDonald’s she patronizes every morning after she gets off work.
But a man she didn’t know held a blade to her throat while she sat in her car at the drive-thru, waiting for restaurant employees to take her order.
Just before 5 a.m., Johnson, 65, left her part-time job working at a distribution warehouse for The Herald and The Charlotte Observer and decided to go to the North Cherry Road McDonald’s right off the interstate.
It’s the easiest way to get a bite to eat before she hits I-77 and heads back to her home in Chester County, she said. So, like she does every morning she gets off work, she drove her car to the drive-thru ordering screen. This time, not one employee asked if they could take her order, she said.
She waited for several minutes before deciding to leave. As she prepared to pull off, a man wearing a dark T-shirt, white shorts and a baseball cap walked to the back of her car and approached her open driver’s side window.
He planted his elbows on the car’s windowsill and held a blade to Johnson’s neck. He told her to give him money. She told him he didn’t have any money to give him.
His response, according to Johnson: “Do you want me to cut you?”
Her response: “No, but I don’t have any money to give you. I’m on a fixed income.”
He asked for money again, questioning if Johnson had any “$100 bills” she could spare, she said. That’s when she stomped on her gas and sped away.
She didn’t return home. Instead, the grandmother of five backed into the parking lot and watched as her assailant walked across a patch of hedges to the nearby Econo Lodge motel on Riverview Road.
He hopped into the passenger’s side of a silver Mercury Monterey, a Rock Hill police report states.
“I said he wasn’t getting away with it,” Johnson said on Monday. She made sure of it.
As the car carrying the man drove south on Cherry Road, Johnson followed until she was able to write down the car tag number and call police.
Officers searched the area, but were unable to find the car. They watched restaurant surveillance video showing the attacker, wearing a dark T-shirt, white shorts and white shoes, approach the woman’s car.
At about 5:20 a.m., police were called to the Waffle House on South Anderson Road after someone complained about two men asking for money. Police arrived and found the Mercury parked behind the restaurant with two men standing nearby. One of them matched the McDonald’s attacker’s description, police say.
Johnson received a call from officers who asked her to meet them at an Anderson Road gas station. There, she identified the attacker, even saying that she was “100 percent confident” he was the man who held her at knifepoint, according to the report.
She also recognized the knife police found in his pocket.
Wayne Burns, 48, of Rock Hill, was arrested and charged with armed robbery and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. He is held at the York County Detention Center on a $600,000 bond.
State Law Enforcement Division records show Burns’ criminal history spans two decades, beginning with probationary convictions for larceny and unlawfully carrying a weapon in 1982. Two years later, he was ordered to pay a $202 fine or spend 20 days behind bars for assault and battery, and he received a similar sentence for the same charge a year later.
He was sentenced under the Youthful Offender Act in 1985 and spent time at a reception and evaluation center in Columbia. Convictions for driving under the influence and drug possession followed in subsequent years before he was charged with assault and battery with the intent to kill and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1989.
By 2004, he was out of jail but soon convicted of strong arm robbery and sent to the state Department of Corrections. Out of prison again in 2011, Burns was charged by Rock Hill Police with distributing prescription drugs. Last year, Burns’ parole was revoked after he was convicted for grand larceny and breaking into auto/tanks where fuel is stored.
Johnson, who for four years delivered The Charlotte Observer in Chester County down dark country roads, said she’s never been in a would-be robbery or threatened at knifepoint.
She’ll likely patronize the same McDonald’s again, but not any time soon, she said.
David Powell, owner of the Cherry Road McDonald’s, declined to comment on the incident.
Johnson has words to share with her attacker, who she said was obviously drunk Sunday because, “his breath would’ve knocked you down.”
“You’re an idiot, really,” she said. “Look where you are now, buddy.”