Online Exclusive

Fatal Stabbing at Detroit Auto Plant Stops Assembly Line

Sept. 21--The assembly line is up and running again today at Chrysler LLC's Jefferson North assembly plant at Conner Street and Jefferson Avenue, with the stabbing death of a fellow employee by another worker fresh on their minds.

"It's just kind of eerie going back today," said a 17-year employee from Detroit as he walked through the parking lot just before his line started running at 6 a.m. "Just pray for us."

Police said an ongoing dispute between two employees at the plant resulted in one stabbing the other at 7:50 a.m., then fleeing. He was found later Thursday on Belle Isle, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The names of the men were not confirmed by authorities, but co-workers and neighbors identified the man who killed his co-worker as Jeff Hunt and the slain co-worker as Keith Readus.

The plant immediately went on lock-down for about 3,000 employees who produce the Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Durango, with assembly lines stopped and employees sent home. Production restarted today in the 3 million square-foot facility, with familiar lines of cars funneling into the plant just before operations resumed at 6 a.m.

The 17-year employee said he knew and liked both men. Readus had been his union steward for 10 years.

"Jeff was just a quiet guy," he said.

Another worker, an 18-year employee from Lake Orion who called Readus a "good guy," said rumors have been swirling about the argument between the two men.

"You know, I myself realize that this world is not perfect," he said. "Things happen. It's not comfortable. Obviously, it's not Chrysler's fault. It's two guys who had problems between themselves. I've worked here for 18 years and never had a problem. It's been so nice."

One Jefferson North employee from Detroit who just started working the line this summer after years of office jobs, said she intends to spend a few minutes with grief counselors scheduled to be at the plant today.

"Thank you Jesus I didn't see it," she said as she walked in this morning. "I'm shaken up to know this went down at my place of employment."

The hardest part is hearing about it in the news -- and her children seeing reports about it on television, she said.

"Once they saw it on the news they said, "Mommy, mommy, is that where you work? Are you going to be o.k.?'"

Copyright 2012 - Detroit Free Press