Columbia hotels discuss security after murder

Following a murder at the Comfort Inn hotel in Columbia, the Columbia Lodging Association held a meeting to discuss hotel safety due to of a string of recent crimes in the city's hotels. At the Nov. 29 meeting, participants discussed different security measures for the city's hotels.

This meeting came just one week after the murder of Cynthia White, an employee at Columbia's Comfort Inn, formerly called the Fairfield Inn. Dwight T. Hayes was arrested last week on suspicion of murder and other charges related to White's murder.

Columbia Police Department Officer Tim Thomason advised all hotels to install security cameras in the front of the building and both inside and outside the physical structure.

"Many of the hotels in the area with surveillance cameras have cameras that do not record," Thomason said.

Hotels need to have cameras on their side doors to monitor all entrances to the hotel, Thomason told members of the Columbia Lodging Association.

Lorah Steiner, director of the Columbia Visitors and Convention Bureau, said White was "working alone with no security cameras" at the time of her murder.

Thomason said this was unsafe.

"Proper landscaping and proper lighting need to be maintained as a way of eliminating hiding spots from the cameras," Thomason said.

Thomason suggested late-night pay windows as a way to protect employees. In order to log hotel guests, employees need to get the full name, address and photo identification of all guests.

"Make sure you can read the writing, as you will be the one checking it if there is a problem," Thomason said.

Thomason also said there should been two people working at the front desk during night shifts in order to serve as security for each other. Key card access is another way to add security to a hotel, Thomason said.

Prior to White's murder, Hayes gained entry to the then-Fairfield Inn on Nov. 16 and attacked a female employee. Hayes instructed the victim to go to a back room of the hotel.

"(Hayes) followed the victim into this room and demanded she remove her own clothing," court documents stated.

Hayes then stole the victim's car, which has been recovered, Columbia Police Capt. Brad Nelson said.

Nelson said he believed the handgun used in the Nov. 16 assault was the same handgun used in White's murder.

In an incident on Nov. 13, Hayes entered a guest's room at the Hampton Inn on Clark Lane in an attempted burglary. There were no injuries and nothing was taken, Nelson said.

The district attorney issued an arrest warrant for Hayes on Nov. 25. During the course of their investigation, police discovered that Hayes was at a family member's home on McKee Street, and he was arrested, Nelson said.

Hayes did not resist his arrest, Nelson said.

Hayes' first court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 4 at the Boone County Courthouse.

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