| Crime |

Why Does a Milk Company Give So Much Cash to Solve Murders? To Avenge One of Its Own.

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Google "Oak Farms reward" and you'll get a lot of hits, recent news articles mostly with headlines like "Oak Farms offers $10,000 reward in murder of Arlington couple," "Reward offered in hairdresser's murder," "Oak Farms Dairy offers reward in DART retiree murder." Most recently, it was $10,000 for the arrest and indictment of whoever murdered restaurant owners Yayehirad Lemma and Yenenesh Desta on their front porch.

Now for the obvious question: Why does Oak Farms, a milk company that's part of one of the world's largest food conglomerates, put up so much money to solve murders and violent robberies? PR benefits, obviously, but there are ways to get positive exposure that doesn't involve tying one's name to violent crimes.

The story's been told before though not, so far as I can tell, for a while. It was back in 1973 and Bill Moon was working a late-night shift at a convenience store owned by Schepps Dairy. Three men walked in the store, bought chips, then shot Moon once in the temple and stole a cigar box full of rolled coins worth about $660, according to a 2004 Morning News article.

The men left, and the case went cold until company founder Harmon Schepps put an ad in the paper offering a $5,000 reward. The tips led to the arrest and conviction of the suspects.

The program continued and expanded to other cities after Dean Foods purchased Schepps.

"The program represents a way for the company to give back to the communities that support our businesses," said Jamaison Schuler, a Dean Foods spokesman. "We believe the program may also help bring a small measure of peace to the families of violent crime victims."

So far, the program has put up about $1.5 million in rewards and paid on the order of $500,000.

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