ROCK HILL — Marcella Talford's first time working the day shift by herself three years ago started simply enough.
She arrived at 8 a.m. on Aug. 9 and went to work behind a cash register at the One Stop convenience store on Albright Road, a five-minute walk from home.
For most of the day a steady stream of customers came to buy snacks and gas.
Just before 3 p.m., the long line of customers dwindled to one.
The female customer wore a gray or white T-shirt, sunglasses and black wind pants.
According to Talford, the woman Connie Dumas pointed a gun at her and demanded money.
"At first, I thought it was a joke and I asked her, are you serious? Talford said. "She said, yeah.'"
Marcella Talford said she placed the cash drawer on the counter. Dumas took $34 before asking the cashier, "wheres the rest of it?"
Dumas sought the $60 Talford had placed in a money drop envelope. She took the money and ran from the store, Marcella Talford said.
Talford, then a 20-year-old college student studying psychology, who had been working at the One Spot for two months, locked the front door, grabbed a phone, and called police.
Three years later, she says the robbery still haunts her.
But now shes upset that the woman who was convicted of the crime wants a lighter sentence, is still maintaining her innocence and telling a story that portrays the former clerk as the true culprit.
Bursha Dumas, Connie Dumas husband, has asked civil rights activist John Barnette and his Charlotte-based group, True Healing Under God, for help.
Plans include filing an appeal or helping Connie Dumas apply for post-conviction relief, a hearing where she could present new evidence and, depending on the judges ruling, receive a new trial.
Before she went to trial in 2011, prosecutors offered Dumas a deal that would have incarcerated her between five to eight years, said E.B. Springs, the 16th Circuit assistant solicitor who prosecuted the case.
She rejected it, he said.
"Instead of taking the plea and admitting what she did and apologizing, she decided to go to court and make me the thief," Talford said. "And now, you're mad at the time you got because you didn't want to tell the truth or take the plea, so now you're still trying to make me be a liar."
Connie Dumas was tried twice. The first time, a Circuit Court judge declared a mistrial. The second time a jury found her guilty and a judge sentenced her to 18 years at the state Department of Corrections. Armed robbery is a felony in South Carolina and carries a minimum 10-year prison sentence.
Its about as settled as it could possibly be, Springs said. At this point, there are no allegations. Its settled, according to an extremely high standard and thats beyond a reasonable doubt.
Barnette said last week that his group is planning rallies to spread word about Dumas sentence, which he said is excessive and extreme.
Though he maintains her innocence, Barnette said even if Connie Dumas committed the robbery, nobody got killed, nobody got shot, no one got Tased.
On Saturday, Bursha Dumas joined area-pastors and THUG members in a Trayvon Martin rally in Charlotte. He told the crowd about his wifes sentence. Eighteen years and no parole is too much, he said.
Teresa Talford, Marcella Talfords mother, disagrees.The robbery could've changed our entire family's lives just like it changed their family, she said. It's a decision she made. She could have taken my child's life for $80."
Connie Dumas made a decision that day...a bad decision...that she has to live with now," Teresa Talford said. "Armed robbery is armed robbery. I don't care if it's $2 or 50 cents, the armed robbery part is the weapon. It doesn't matter how much you take. It's the crime that you chose to do. It was senseless."
The Talford women say they are not against Connie Dumas. Like Dumas, Teresa Talford is a mother and she said she feels for Connie Dumas' children.
"It's not like I'm against her and don't want her to get out," Marcella Talford said. "I would prefer that she would just say what happened and apologize. I would go to the court and say, 'lessen it.' I would talk on her behalf if she would own up and apologize."
Teresa Talford said Connie Dumas showed no remorse for doing what she did in court.
In an affidavit, Connie Dumas told police she left her house and put a handgun in the waistband of her pants. She went into the One Stop store, held the gun at the clerk and left with money.
I needed the money because they were foreclosing on our house. We were broke and my daughter needed to go school shopping and I did not have any money. I am not sure how much money I got, but I gave the money to my daughter and she put it in her purse when I got home, the statement reads.
Bursha Dumas questions the validity of the statement, saying his wife told him she was intimidated by officers who threatened to lock up the couples daughter if she did not confess.
Bursha Dumas said his wife told him she went into the store and asked Marcella Talford for change for a $100 bill. According to Bursha Dumas, Connie Dumas said that Marcella Talford would not give her the change after she handed over the $100 bill . When the clerk opened the register, Connie Dumas claims she grabbed her cash and walked out.
Bursha Dumas said his wife claims she carried a cell phone, not a gun, into the store.
"I knew it was a gun," Marcella Talford said. "I know what a gun looks like...I know what a phone looks like."
Marcella Talford said she is still trying to get her sense of safety back.
"I don't like to be startled or surprised," she said. "I don't know if someone's watching me or not watching me.
After the robbery, Teresa Talford told her daughter, I understand this is a bad thing that happened to you and it's a scary thing that happened to you, but you've got to get back up. You can't let a person like that steal your confidence."
Jonathan McFadden 803-329-4082