Jackie Barthelemy had just finished cooking a meal for guests at the Mayacoo Lakes Country Club, where she worked as the executive chef, when she stopped at a Florida gas station on her way home.
But Barthelemy would never make it out of the convenience store alive. The 36-year-old had stumbled upon a robbery in progress and was shot in the chest before two assailants, disguised in black clothing, fled the store.
Surveillance footage obtained by local station WPBF shows Barthelemy getting out of her car and calmly walking toward the Chevron convenience store Friday night around 10:30 p.m.. While one suspect is seen in the footage putting cash from a register into a bag, another suspect—who appears to be a female—is seen holding the door of the store shut.
Barthelemy rushes into the store, pushing the female subject, who has a gun pointed in her direction, back. Barthelemy runs toward the suspect and disappears off the screen.
Palm Beach Gardens Police said the store’s clerk told police that she had been getting cash from a second register when she heard gunshots and saw Barthelemy on the floor. She had been shot multiple times in the chest, according to a police report obtained by the station.
Police later found suspect Ezequiel Nunez hiding under a boat in a nearby neighborhood and took him into custody. Police also recovered a gun.
Nunez, 18, is now facing charges of murder, robbery with a firearm, aggravated assault and tampering with evidence, according to The Palm Beach Post.
Authorities are still searching for the female suspect.
On the night she was killed, Barthelemy had served dinner at the country club where she worked for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic had forced the dining room to shut down in March.
Her coworker Michelle DeRoche—who considered Barthelemy like a work daughter—told local station WPEC that Barthelemy had been excited to get back to doing what she loved.
“She was just this amazing person and such a beautiful, professional woman,” DeRoche said. “There were two sides to Jackie: her family was number one, and her professional goals were number two.”
DeRoche described Barthelemy to The Palm Beach Post as a dedicated overachiever who was always striving to learn new skills or help younger staff in the kitchen.
“She always saw the best in everyone,” she said. “She would achieve and acquire any goal that she sought. She is just a shining star.”
Michael Cimbrec, Barthelemy’s long-term partner with whom she shared two teenage children, told the paper the family of four loved to take trips together and spend time on the water.
On the night she was killed, she had talked with her 17-year-old daughter Alexis Flaherty on the phone, telling the teen about the importance of staying focused in school.
“She was a strong person. She never took ‘no’ for an answer. If she wanted something done, you were going to do it,” Alexis told WPBF. “She just made everyone so happy and she wanted the best out of everybody. She wanted everyone to have parties and to have fun and the family all together.”
Cimbrec said his love of 12 years always led by example and played an active role in her children’s lives—making sure her 14-year-old son Trenten always got to baseball practice on time and encouraging him on the field.
“She wanted to be in on the action,” Cimbrec said. “That’s how she lived her life.”
He told WPBF that he often had to remind the talented chef to take time for herself, calling his partner a “force of love.”
“She never stopped for herself,” he said. “It was just always about taking care of her dad, taking care of her son, taking care of her house.”
When Cimbrec saw the surveillance video capturing her final moments Friday night, he said it looked like she had rushed in to help. Her decision to rush in just further demonstrated her desire to help others, but Cimbrec said he had wished she had waited outside and called police.
“I’d tell her, ‘You have to slow down. You can’t do everything,’” he told the paper.
Those who knew Barthelemy are now left grieving the sudden loss of the talented chef.
“Things that will never, never fall back into place the way they should be. Our lives will now be changed forever every single day moving forward,” Cimbrec told WPBF. “My life is completely changed. My daughter’s life is completely changed and I’ll never find the partner that I had, the best friend that I had.”
Flaherty said the gunman “ruined a family.”
Anyone with information about the crime is urged to contact authorities.
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