Long before he was beaten and left to die in a smoky adult-video store, Herbert Carl Lessard had concerns about working the night shift.
He knew the dangers, and he would take no chances.
The 63-year-old Lessard told friends that he would not resist a robber's demands. He would simply open the cash drawer and let the bad guy take everything.
Knowing this, friends were puzzled about what happened early Sunday at the Blue Garter video and book store on Central Avenue.
Lessard was found bleeding and gasping on the floor after the owner of a nearby liquor store noticed smoke coming from the Blue Garter. Lessard was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where he died.
Police are investigating whether Lessard was beaten with a fire extinguisher or other blunt objectand whether the murderer set the building on fire.
Fire Lt. Tom Young, the deputy fire marshal, said the blaze apparently started behind the front counter.
Jerry Gluck, whose family runs the Blue Garter, said a door was forced open and Lessard pressed an alarm near the cash register. A surveillance camera was not working, he said.
Lessard had worked mostly nights at the Blue Garter since he was hired about three years ago. He had been robbed once before.
"I know he didn't like the working the night shift. That's a good question as to why he stayed," said his former roommate, Keith Carney Jr.
She and other friends said Monday that Lessard had been the food services director at St. Anthony's Hospital for many years before he retired in 1991. He received a generous retirement package, but he quickly spent the money he was given.
Ian Stanislaus Gomez, Lessard's attorney and friend, said Monday that Lessard had been concerned about the lack of security at the Blue Garter.
During the previous robbery, the store's video cameras were not working either, Gomez said.