by Clellie Allen
FRANKLINTON — Everyone who knew her, loved and admired her, say Tracy Williams’ closest family members and friends. Tracy, 45, was gunned down, allegedly by an ex-boyfriend, in the parking lot of the Food Lion grocery store in Franklinton late Sunday afternoon.
“She was strong, a fighter, a hard worker. She used to be so bubbly, full of laughter,” said her sister Michelle Williams, Monday. “She was just so talented, and loved people — loved helping people. She was always so positive. And feisty,” she said.
But in the past year, Michelle saw the woman she knew start to slip away as Tracy’s relationship with boyfriend Garry Yarborough deteriorated.
“She got to where unfamiliar cars would drive by and she’d get very jittery. She became so afraid,” Michelle said.
Tracy and Yarborough had been together about five years, by Michelle’s recollection. The relationship began well. Tracy came alongside Yarborough in his business and helped him build it up.
But after a while, things began to change. Yarborough became controlling and possessive.
“He was very crafty and cunning. He could convince anyone of anything,” Michelle said.
Tracy initially forgave Yarborough’s outbursts and let him back into her life, but things never got better.
Finally, about a year ago, she decided she’d had enough and called the relationship off.
“She realized life was too short to keep on with him,” Michelle said. Tracy made plans to move on with her personal hopes and dreams for her life.
“She was going to school, studying to be a nurse,” Michelle said. Tracy already had her certified nursing assistant 1 & 2 certifications and worked at Franklin Medical Center. “She was so eager to learn … a really fast learner,” Michelle said.
But Yarborough allegedly became violent, stalking Michelle, showing up places where she didn’t expect him.
Franklin County law en-forcement logged numerous domestic violence complaints for the couple.
In early July, Tracy completed paperwork to obtain a domestic violence protective order against Yarborough after he reportedly kidnapped her at gunpoint and forced her to drive to his home in Zebulon. News reports revealed this week that the protective order was never served as law enforcement officers were unable to locate Yarborough.
According to Michelle, after Yarborough was released from custody on bail from the kidnapping and assault arrest, he immediately sought out Tracy.
“He rolled up in his car and said, “I just want to show you how easy I can get to you.’”
Just last week, he reportedly told family members that Tracy needed to “watch her credit,” and that he’d hacked into her bank account and taken money.
He even resorted to texting family members to try and get to Tracy, including through Tracy and Michelle’s mother.
“He texted mom and told her he was sorry for how he was acting. And that he loved her,” Michelle said. “(He was) just playing with her.”
The wrong stars
Tracy had just reached a decision to not let fear of Garry Yarborough rule her life. “She decided she was going to go about her life because she didn’t want him to win (out)over her,” Michelle said.
Tracy had filed for the protective order and had gotten her conceal-carry permit along with two handguns for protection.
Saturday, Franklinton police had staked out her mother’s home because they believed Yarborough would try to come there and they had warrants to serve on him. But he didn’t show.
Sunday, Tracy went about her business, determined to stand tall, Michelle said.
Shortly before 5 p.m., she went to the Food Lion in Franklinton, just off of U.S. 1 and N.C. 56. Somehow, Yarborough learned she was there and confronted her.
A young eyewitness, who didn’t want to be identified, said she had just taken money out of the CashPoints teller and headed toward the grocery store to shop when she heard an argument break out.
“When I walked up to get money, I saw her (Tracy) in her car. Her shoe was off and her purse was on the ground. I heard them talking, but I wasn’t paying attention. After I got my money, I went to my car and pulled up a little. Then I heard her start blowing the horn, and then I heard a gun shot go off. I don’t know if anyone was shot then, but I saw her start to run away, yelling for help.”
Investigators say it was then that Yarborough chased Tracy down in the parking lot. At some point, Tracy did fire her handgun, possibly wounding Yarborough in the leg. But the gun jammed, and Yarborough shot her at close range, killing her instantly.
“This was someone who did everything she could do under the law to protect herself,” said Franklinton Police Chief John Green. “It was as if the wrong stars lined up for her that day.”
Michelle echoed Tracy’s resilience in working to keep herself safe. “She was not a weak woman. She was a fighter. She was fighting for her life,” she said. “Tracy did everything she could. The police did everything they could. The law has got to change. I want everyone to know that this didn’t have to happen. He would get arrested, get out and then come and taunt her. He would just show up.”
After reportedly killing Tracy, Yarborough fled the scene in a black SUV-type vehicle and went to the home of a nurse friend of Tracy’s on Cornerstone Drive. He shot his way inside, demanding the occupant bandage his leg. At some point, he struck his second victim with the butt of his gun before fleeing again.
Law enforcement found Yarborough’s vehicle several miles away on Perry Road, just off of Old Halifax Road in the southeast corner of Franklin County, toward Zebulon. He had abandoned it and set it ablaze.
The woods were searched, but tips started coming in as word of the shocking events spread on social media.
Eventually, Wake County Sheriff’s deputies, with Franklinton police, got a solid tip about Yarborough holed up in the Days Inn in the 6600 block of Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh.
Shortly before dawn, about 12 hours after the shooting, a SWAT team took Yarborough and Josiah Oakley into custody. During the arrest, Yarborough can be heard calling to officers to not shoot him. “Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me, man,” he pleaded.
After being taken to WakeMed for treatment of a gunshot wound to the leg, Gary was transported to Franklinton where he was formally charged with first-degree murder in Tracy’s death.
Green said inter-agency cooperation was key in making the swift arrest of Yarborough.
“What helped close the case so quickly was Wake County Sheriff’s Office extending manpower to cover leads. Everything kept pointing to Wake County, and they beat the bush all night long until they finally got the solid lead,” he said.
Trying to make sense
Franklinton is a small community, with a population just over 2,000. Green oversees a department of nine officers. This is his third murder investigation while head of the department. Two are from domestic violence situations. None were “stranger crimes.”
“A case like this just drains you. It drains you professionally and personally,” he said. “We’re a small department with only three officers trained to do this kind of investigation. So we work the case nonstop. We go out, come back and compare notes and then go out again.
“But more than that, in a community this small, you know everyone. And it hits you personally.”
In the middle of her grief, Michelle says she is clinging to firm conviction that some kind of good will come out of her sister’s death.
“I woke up today thinking, there’s got to be a reason for this happening. It just makes no sense otherwise,” she said Monday. “Tracy did everything right. No piece of paper was going to stop Garry, but for him to find her and then for her gun to jam. There’s just got to be a reason,” she said.
“People need to know the truth: She was fighting for her life, month by month. She’d be alive now if he hadn’t been able to get out (after his last arrest). We, all of us, have to fight now to see laws change. I believe she died so that others can live. That’s got to be the reason.”
Arrested in connection with the death of Tracy Williams, of Green Hill Road, Franklinton are:
•Garry Yarborough, 35, Yellowbelle Road, Zebulon. Yar-borough has been charged with first degree murder and is awaiting trial in the Franklin County jail, currently without bond.
•Jasmine Alexandria Murphy, 26, 4125 Standing Rock Way, Raleigh. She is being charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder and is currently being held in the Franklin County jail. She allegedly drove Garry Yarborough to Raleigh, with the knowledge he had allegedly murdered Tracy Williams.