Wednesday , 26 October 2016

Truett St. Tragedy, Then and Now: The Night Our Innocence Vanished

Ten years ago, McKinney, Texas was a very different place. There were only two high schools, and McKinney North was in its infant second year. The then-small school had built an extremely tight bond through its football program and the members of that Bulldogs team had become a family. Two of these family members were Matt Self and Austin York. The juniors were adored by their peers and teammates, and they would often spend more time with their football family than their real ones. The hours of practice, classes and, of course, general fun took up most of the Bulldogs’ days.

A day much like March 12, 2004.

Just Another Day

The final Friday of spring break was about what one might expect of high school boys. Matt and Austin, alongside teammates Johnny McKinzie and brothers Alex and Lynard Barbosa, were hanging around the Barbosa’s home watching movies, playing video games and being as lazy as students should be on break. Austin had broken his collarbone a week prior, so he had gotten out of work at the Market Street meat market that night. With limited mobility, and at Lynard’s request, it was on Alex to chauffeur Austin around town.

“Austin and Matt weren’t in a going-out mode — they were winding down,” Lynard said. “I was usually never apart from Austin, but I knew with his collarbone he was in no condition to go out, and I wanted to. So I just assumed they would be OK. I mean, you’re going home on a Friday night, how could you not be safe?”

Austin and Matt’s plans to head home were delayed somewhat by Alex and Lynard’s older brother Mark, who persuaded them to go out for dinner. Although the Barbosas were frying fish that evening, Austin, Matt and Mark decided pizza was the better option and went to Cici’s Pizza Buffet. Johnny, Alex and Lynard stayed at their parents’ house for fish, but still had expectations of seeing their friends and brother again later. As “later” approached and none of the three answered their cellphones, suspicion arose.

“It was just another normal Friday. I remember calling Austin later that night and not getting an answer, and thinking he was upset. Was he mad that we didn’t meet up sooner?” Alex said. “But then we got a phone call later that night, and it wasn’t who it was supposed to be.”

The Culling Call

Sergeant Drew Caudell of the McKinney Police Department didn’t think too much of it when he responded to a call about a break-in at Cliff’s Check Cashing. After 12 years on the force, picking from a variety of random dispatch calls was second nature. When he arrived on the scene, the store’s alarm was going off, but there were no signs of forced entry.

“When I got there, I parked on the side and sort of peaked around to the front, but no one was there,” Caudell said. “When I went up to the door, it was open. So I waited on backup, and once we got in, we realized that the doors to the money were still locked.”

Caudell followed procedure and had dispatch track down one of the workers, who came by to inspect too. She agreed that nothing had been tampered with. So both concluded someone had gotten in and probably run away when the alarm sounded. Caudell assumes he missed the suspects by a mere few minutes. Any further speculation was cut short though, as a call came in that there was a shooting on Truett St. There were multiple victims. As a senior sergeant, Caudell quickly made his way to the crime scene, just before midnight.

Sometime Around Midnight

Austin and Matt rarely ever missed their midnight curfews. If they knew they would be late, they called their mothers. That’s just how it worked. But neither Nancy Self (Matt’s mom) or Laurie Wilson (Austin’s mom) got a call from their sons that night.

Austin had always been close with his younger sister Sydney. Despite the five-year age difference, they talked every night when he came in, no matter how late it was. When Sydney’s brother didn’t show up for curfew at midnight, she called him over and over, to no avail. So at two in the morning, when there was a knock at the door, it was Sydney who answered.

Sydney who opened the door, expecting to see her brother.

Sydney who met the four sobbing teenagers at her doorstep.

Steve and Laurie Wilson learned the news of Austin’s murder from those four teens, but Laurie tried to rationalize why her son wouldn’t be home in bed by now. She couldn’t accept that this was an emergency, that she needed to contact the police. It took her husband’s insistence to finally push forward.

“You get a little knock at the door, and next thing you know you it all escalates from there,” Steve said. “We called 911 and I was then asked to come to the police department. I knew then that it wasn’t going to be good. And it wasn’t. Obviously.”

Much like the Wilsons, Nancy Self was expecting a call from her son and she continuously tried calling him herself, to no avail. With no answer, she called Johnny McKinzie, who she knew was with Matt, Austin and the younger Barbosa boys that night.

But when Johnny saw Matt’s mother calling him, Johnny couldn’t bring himself to answer. It wasn’t his place.

When Alex Barbosa got the call from McKinney North’s Student Resource Officer David Rodriquez, he was asked to go to the police station. He and Johnny found out the fateful news before many others, including their friend’s parents.

Because Johnny wouldn’t answer her calls, Nancy called his mother, Maria McKinzie, who hadn’t heard from the boys either. Promising to figure out what was happening, Maria called her son. But Johnny, hesitant to answer even his own mother’s calls, told her to simply come to the police station.

What Maria learned upon arrival, she too couldn’t say over the phone.

Nancy and Keith Self may not remember answering the door that night. They may not remember who told them what. Everything may seem like a blur for the Self’s, but what Maria’s son couldn’t say, she had to. And that’s when Nancy finally found out about her son’s fate. Matt had been shot, but he was still breathing.

The Story (So Far)

Sergeant Caudell was the first officer at both crime scenes. When he arrived at 105 Truett St., Austin, Mark and Rosa were dead from gunshot wounds. At this point, Caudell didn’t know Rosa worked at Cliff’s Check Cashing, but that detail would become vital as the weeks, months and years went on. Robert, the eldest Barbosa brother, was there. Robert, who lived with Rosa on Truett Street, and had called the cops when he came home to find his friends and family dead. Caudell found Robert cradling Matt’s head in his lap. Still breathing, Matt was rushed to the hospital via helicopter.

Friends, family and neighbors crowded the hospital waiting room. Matt’s teammates sat waiting for news on their brother, hoping for something good. What they got was not what they expected. It wasn’t a full recovery. It wasn’t answers. It was simply a chance to say goodbye. A chance Austin, Mark and Rosa didn’t get.

This story is a disjointed one. Everyone who experienced the night of the murders of Austin York, Matt Self and Mark and Rosa Barbosa will tell you that there were never clear answers. The tangled web of communication that night was only a sign of the difficult, unclear times to come. Even now, 10 years later, there are unanswered questions and confusions in the various stories of that night.

No one knows what really happened that night. But for whatever reason, Matt, Austin and Mark stopped by his Aunt Rosa’s house on Truett Street that night. And why did Aunt Rosa’s house become a murder scene? Rosa had run a side business of cashing checks for undocumented workers during her time at Cliff’s Check Cashing. It wasn’t long before speculation began that the wrong people took advantage of another’s kindness.

Those who lost their loved ones that night will never have all their questions answered. All they can do from here is move on and celebrate the memories of those lost. The deaths of Austin, Matt, Mark and Rosa shook this city. The aftermath of the Truett St. Tragedy would haunt McKinney for years to come.

It would take hundreds of bad leads, misinformation and a few lucky breaks for police to track down the suspected killers. Time marched on.

Editor’s Note: This is the first 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. In part 2, we will look into the aftermath of these murders and the investigations that went on for years following. 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.


Angie Bado’s Reflections of that awful night

-Part 1: The Night Our Innocence Was Lost

-Parts 2-7 will run daily through March 13.

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