While many of our yearbooks are collecting dust in our attics next to our rarely worn Letterman jackets, Lynard Barbosa’s 2003 book gets an annual reread every March. The small collection of class photos and sports stories symbolize one of the few ways he can still connect to his old friends, no matter how far they have grown apart since high school. In particular, the book holds a note from Austin York, nearly a year before he was murdered on Truett Street.
“L,” Lynard, Lavios, Lil’ Bosa.
Dang don’t really know where to start. Way to many memories to ever write down, I guess I’ll just tell you that your my best friend and are like a brother to me. I will always be here, whenever you need me.
Your white brother,
Bad grammar, multiple nicknames, and even a little sketch are about as standard as yearbook notes come. But when Lynard looks back on not only the 10 years since Austin died along with three others in McKinney’s most notorious murder, but also the length of their friendship, its this note that refreshes the bond he’ll always uphold. Unfortunately, like a lot of the yearbook notes written, Austin didn’t get the chance to uphold his promise. He couldn’t always be there, even when Lynard needed him most.
“We were great friends. He loved me because we took care of each other. I took care of him, I protected him, nobody messed with us,” Lynard said.
Lynard and Austin were inseparable growing up. Laurie Wilson, Austin’s mother, feels like she helped raise Lynard and that he truly was a part of the family. He spent many hours at the home of Laurie and Steve Wilson, who was Austin’s stepdad. Hey, Lynard was Austin’s brother — and because of that he was Laurie’s son.
“Lynard and Austin were best friends since middle school. They competed athletically and academically. Lynard was such a smart kid,” Laurie said. “He was at our house all the time, so we kind of put some parenting into that, which takes a lot of emotion.”
Austin’s death affected everyone in different ways. For Lynard, it made him angry. It took him to a dark place. For Laurie, it made her hard to approach, and she found it difficult to be supportive of others in her darkest days. Although the bond she had with Lynard and the rest of her son’s friends always makes her smile when thinking about Austin, the years following the funeral were a time she had to handle more personally.
“It’s hard for me. I want to see Austin’s friends now, but its kind of a reminder of what was taken away. I see his friends getting married and having kids, and that really hurts,” Laurie said. “We haven’t seen much of Lynard since then, and I miss him terribly. It might just be too painful, but I feel like we could just reconnect and get past the pain.”
The pain that led to Laurie’s distance, led to Lynard’s anger. So, when Raul Cortez was tried for the murders of York, Matt Self, Mark Barbosa and Rosa Barbosa, Lynard couldn’t help but secretly plan revenge on the man that killed his friends and family in cold blood. Lynard would grow to understand the consequences of such actions, but it was what his best friend’s mother said that helped him realize that his pain could be worse.
“It wasn’t until after everything in the trial was over that Laurie made a statement as we were walking out, that I finally reset,” Lynard said. “She said she didn’t know what was worse, being the mother of someone that was murdered or being the mother of a killer. And it just made total sense. Think about what this guy did to his family, the taint he put on his name.”
Matt’s mother has never met the killer’s mother. All of her opinions are based on her own assumptions, but as hard as it is knowing her son’s seat at the dinner table will always be empty, she thinks it would be infinitely harder knowing that her son is a murderer.
“My heart breaks for Mrs. Cortez every single day. I think she’s probably a good woman, and to know that she lives with that knowledge is disturbing,” Laurie said.
Laurie’s views on the trial of Raul Cortez and the verdict to sentence her son’s killer to death have changed in ways she never thought possible. Although she readily admits that she wants Cortez to suffer for his crimes, she doesn’t think giving him death will suffice as punishment.
“Before all of this, I supported the death penalty 100 percent, but I don’t feel that way today, especially given my situation,” Laurie said. “I think if you really want to punish someone, stick them in a cell for 23 of 24 hours a day and make them live out their life knowing what they have done. Don’t give him a way out.”
Although it’s been 10 years since Lynard and Laurie saw Austin, they look back fondly. The old photos, handwritten yearbook notes and memories are all they have left of the boy that left them too early. Lynard still thinks of himself as Austin’s protector by defending the legacy of his memory. Austin may not be around like his note said he would be, but Laurie still thinks he’s watching over his loved ones.
“Who knows where Austin would be today, what he would have accomplished,” Laurie said. “But I think if God had to have some angels that day, he got a few great ones.”
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth 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 5: Those Closest to Austin York Find Faith in His Memories
Parts 6 and 7 will run daily through Thursday, March 13.