Jury finds woman guilty in assault on Red Lobster waitress

News-DemocratAugust 21, 2013 

A St. Clair County jury found a 21-year-old St. Louis woman guilty of the 2011 attack against a Red Lobster waitress in Fairview Heights.

The jury deliberated for about three hours Tuesday before finding Ania D. Wilkes guilty of mob action and felony assault in connection with the attack on the waitress on Dec. 30, 2011. The trial started Monday.

The waitress, Heather Frink, now 34, was jumped by four women about 6 p.m. at the Fairview Heights restaurant.

"I am relieved," she said of the jury's verdict. "I felt in my heart that truth and justice were going to prevail, but, you take a risk when you put it in front of a jury. I'm super glad, and hopefully I'll be able to move on from this."

Another patron caught the assault on video with a cellphone.

Frink received cuts, bruises, a swollen eye and had to go through physical therapy for injuries she received when the women repeatedly punched her back. She could not lift more than five pounds and when she went back to work, she was not able to work as a waitress and served as a hostess instead. A second attack on a waitress at the restaurant in August 2012 ended any feeling of safety Frink had left after the attack.

"I tried to work, and the night the other waitress got attacked, a customer said, 'Don't worry, I'm not going to jump you or anything,' which is a joke that had been made several times since the attack, and I started crying," she said. "I just went home. It was a nightmare. I had nightmares about it. Obviously, she (Wilkes) knows where I work, I work nights and I had to walk outside after work. It was definitely traumatic to me."

Frink was attacked because she brought Wilkes broiled fish instead of fried fish, Frink said. Frink said she fixed the order and it was served complimentary by the restaurant. When she walked away to find a manager to find out if the rest of the meals would be served without charge, she heard one of the women call her a profane name.

"I turned around and told them they couldn't talk to me like that," she said. "That's when Ania grabbed her glass and threw it at my face. I was in shock when it happened. My face was all wet, I was in awe, like, 'Did that just really happen?'"

After the drink was thrown, the women attacked her, pushing her into another table, pulling her hair and punching her repeatedly before other patrons and employees were able to pull her from the mob. Frink said the three women are Wilkes' relatives.

"I want her to be held accountable for her actions," Frink said. "Her behavior is not acceptable. You can't just act that way in public. Luckily, there wasn't a baby in that section when it happened or it could have been much worse. She has to face the consequences of her actions, she has to be an example to others. You shouldn't be afraid to go out and eat, and I shouldn't be afraid to go work at my job."

Frink said she plans to give a victim impact statement at Wilkes' sentencing.

"I just want this behind me," she said. "It has affected so many aspects of my life. She thinks it's a big joke, but it's not a joke at all. It's affected my life in so many ways."

The case against Wilkes was tried by St. Clair County Assistant State's Attorneys William Clay and Heidi Epperson.

St. Clair County Chief Judge Jan Fiss set Wilkes' sentencing for Oct. 3 and she is out on bond until then.

Charges against additional defendants are pending.

Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at jschaaf@bnd.com or 618-239-2667.