By William Croyle
CRESTVIEW HILLS - A solemn group of employees at Applebee's Neighborhood Bar & Grill gathered about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
They were 30 minutes away from opening for the first time since manager Mark Smith was shot to death outside the restaurant early Sunday.
An employee said no one wanted to speak publicly about Smith's death.
IF YOU GO
Applebee's has set up a fund to benefit Mark Smith's family. Checks for the fund should be made payable to the Mark Smith Family Benevolence Fund. Contributions will be accepted by the manager on duty at any area Applebee's until May 31.
About 70 of the 85 employees had sought counseling provided by the company the day before.
"(Smith) was exemplary," said Bill Campion, executive vice president of Thomas & King, the Lexington-based owner of the restaurant.
"He was a good guy, well-liked, a model for managers," he said. "He treated people well and stood up for what was right. He wasn't afraid to hold people accountable, but was very well-respected."
Smith, 36, was shot near the parking lot entrance after closing the restaurant Sunday morning. His body was found by a cleaning crew about 4:30 a.m.
Lakeside Park/Crestview Hills police and Kenton County police are investigating.
Campion said nothing was taken from the restaurant. "We have no clue why this happened," he said.
Campion said Thomas & King has owned the restaurant about 10 years. It's one of 75 Applebee's the company owns in Kentucky, Ohio and Arizona.
Campion said Smith had worked for Applebee's for three years, including seven months at the Crestview Hills restaurant. Smith worked previously at Applebee's in Covington on the river, and trained at the Highland Heights location.
Thomas & King is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for Smith's death.
Smith is survived by his wife, Stacy, and sons Austin and Mason.
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