The population of McKinney in 2004 was 88,161 and 10 years later that number has nearly doubled to 143,223. Although McKinney continues to grow exponentially every year, during 2004 the city decreased by four citizens. Four members of its community would never to return to see how much the city has grown, how booming the local economy is and how McKinney is ranked of the nation’s top places to live. Unfortunately for Matt Self, Austin York and Mark and Rosa Barbosa, they’ll never to get to see the impact they made on this community, which was clearly evident by a gathering Wednesday night at McKinney North High School in their remembrance 10 years to the day after they were murdered.
On March 12, 2004, the lives of these four citizens were taken in cold blood, and the sense of pride and safety the citizens of McKinney had once enjoyed was shattered. Anger, sadness and confusion swept across the city as Austin, Matt, Mark and Rosa’s murders went unsolved for years. Like the families of the victims, the city had to pick up the pieces and try to move forward and once again offer its citizens the comfort and pride they had once had in McKinney.
“I believe it brought home the fact that we are not a small town anymore, and while McKinney is one of the safest cities in the country we are not immune to crime,” Mayor Brian Loughmiller said. “We also want to remember that when one of our residents suffers a tragedy such as this, our community suffers a tragedy. We pulled together as a community and we need to continue to strive as citizens to work together to promote a safe environment for all of our residents, and especially our children.”
Everyone who spoke about the tragedy on Truett Street talked about how this shouldn’t happen in a small town, but even then McKinney was hardly small. This city hasn’t had a history of accepting its own growth. For example, Shawn Pratt was head football coach for the Bulldogs from North’s inception until he became the Athletic Director of the McKinney Independent School District in 2008. He recalls the hesitancy to open a second high school in the “small town” despite how crowded the school’s had become.
“We had just struggled through a division of the high school to create a second high school,” Pratt said. “There were still some hard feelings there, just accepting that we were growing and that we needed to expand.”
McKinney has only continued to grow, though the small town mentality is still present in the roots of the city. But the loss of four of its citizens in such a horrific way shook us all and forced residents to accept that the city was no longer small. The months that followed this tragedy saw confusion and frustration from its citizen,s as well as its police department. The investigators that worked on this case had never seen a crime of this magnitude, so they had to learn and evolve in order to solve it efficiently.
“We lost our innocence that day. We haven’t lost the family atmosphere yet, but we’re getting close. The bigger we get, the harder it gets to keep that small-town feel, (but) we fight to keep it,” McKinney Police Detective Diana Tilton said.
There are benefits to admitting growth, however. While this tragedy will be a black mark on McKinney’s history, it made the city realize the importance of being prepared. The ongoing investigation of the murders took years and many citizens still hold grudges against that, but the McKinney PD was never prepared for something of this magnitude. How could it have expected to be? Sergeant Drew Caudell was the first person at the scene of the crime on Truett Street, and he believes that the department has made real progress in becoming prepared in the instance something like this happens again.
“We learned a lot from this. The techniques in how we interview people, our crime scene is a lot better now, we have a lot of forensic equipment we didn’t have back then,” Sgt. Caudell said. “It wasn’t that anyone did anything wrong or was inept, it was just that the training and equipment we had at that time wasn’t as good as it is now.”
In a “small” conservative town, it is hard to justify spending money on high end equipment and staffing for murder cases like this before the city actually has one. Detective Tilton admits she never thought something like this would happen outside of a big city, but she had to realize that “that’s us, we were nationwide news,” and that the McKinney would never be the same again.
“If we didn’t have crimes like this people wouldn’t spend the money to get the necessary equipment,” Tilton said. “But now it has definitely improved and gotten better.”
The police department isn’t the only thing that has improved. Ten years later, Matt, Austin, Mark and Rosa would hardly recognize their hometown. There are now three MISD high schools, downtown McKinney is booming in popularity and business, and housing developments can hardly keep up with all the people moving in.
But among all the new buildings, houses and schools are the old ones, with memories attached to them.
“Each time I go back, I can’t believe the growth and change,” said Stuart Thompson, Matt and Austin’s teammate and friend. “I drive by old houses, schools, churches and I miss it all very much. The first things I remember are memories from high school. Matt and Austin were both a big part of those memories. It’s a comforting thing to me now when I get the chance to come back and visit.”
No matter how much McKinney grows, the “small town” everyone clings to the memory of is what brings us all closer. The support shown to high school athletic programs, small local businesses and active community interest are all the hallmarks of small cities that McKinney continues to uphold. The murders on Truett Street may have forced the city to realize its growth, but it also cemented the fact that McKinney will always be focused on its intimate communities.
And finally, the families who suffered the most, the ones who lost loved ones that day, still live here, pressing on, making the most of their lives and trying to be happy.
Alex and Lynard Barbosa, who lost both friends and family members, now have children of their own that bring new hope for their futures.
Nancy and Keith Self, who lost their son Matt, are retired and focusing on finding the happiness they lost in 2004.
Laurie and Steve Wilson, who lose their son Austin, are raising their youngest daughter who will be at North soon enough.
None of these families left McKinney after the tragic night that took their loved ones. There may be bad memories of the loss, but they all have so many more good memories here.
No matter how big our community gets, we’ll never forget Matt Self, Austin York and Mark and Rosa Barbosa, the lives they lived, and the memories they made. Gone, but never forgotten, those affected the most by that fateful night will never let the memory of their lost loved ones fade.
Editor’s Note: This is the final part of a seven-part TSB series, Truett St. Tragedy, Then and Now, a detailed look at the murders of Austin York, Matt Self, and Mark and Rosa Barbosa. The murders took place 10 years ago. Our city lost its innocence that night. So did all of us who lived through it. We’re forever changed. We hope you’ll continue with us on this heartbreaking, yet hopefully inspiring journey.
TRUETT ST. TRAGEDY, THEN AND NOW
-Part 7: Pressing Onward, 10 Years Later