Revisiting the Fire at the Castle, the Friends of Deb Moy
I took the call in my office. ”Is this Brian Clarey?” That’s me. “This is Deb Moy’s best friend.” I wasn’t expecting the call, but I wasn’t much surprised by it either. I’ve had a lot of comments — both written, spoken and relayed in person — since I wrote about the fire at the castle on Summit Avenue, of the murder of William Ransom Hobbs and the savagery that befell Deborah Ann Moy (“It happened in Greensboro”; Dec. 3,
2008; by Brian Clarey). Some expressed displeasure with me for pursuing the story. Others were thankful for the tribute to two well-loved people. Many told me they had not heard the story before reading about it in these pages. I spoke with Ransom’s son over the telephone, his voice painted with pain and anger. I told him about all the e-mails I received, sent from all over the world, each professing love and admiration for his father. Young man, if you’re out there: I’m still getting them. I traded e-mails with Ransom’s sister, whose sorrow and rage were evident in her words. But this was a first: someone who is close to Deb and her family. I respected the wishes of the Moys and their friends while researching the piece — pretty much all of them declined to comment for the record. But without their input, my portrait of Deb was one-dimensional. I couldn’t write about how much she loved her dog, the lengths she’d go to for her friends, the way she liked to drink two glasses of milk before going to bed every night.
Her friend wanted me to know that. She also wanted to meet with me. And that’s how I found myself at a downtown restaurant on a Saturday afternoon, drinking pinot noir with Deb’s best friends, women she’s known collectively for like a hundred years, the ones in heavy rotation on her cell phone, the ones who think abgout her every day. They talked and I listened. They spoke of Deb’s parents, their abiding faith and unblemished love; of Deb’s strength and femininity; of the difficulties she’s facing. They told stories and shared insights, and they laughed until their eyes swelled with tears. This is how Deb’s people have been dealing with the tragedy: taking solace in fellowship and faith, finding a modicum of peace in the notion that everything happens for a reason, remembering the Deb that was and taking joy in the pieces of her that still exist in the Deb that is. But they still want to know who the hell did this and why he hasn’t been caught. “He could still be walking around Greensboro,” Deb’s best friend told me. Over at the Greensboro Police Department, things have not changed much. “We don’t have enough evidence to arrest anybody,” said Lt. Bryan James. “We’re looking at some different things and some various people… but we’re not at the point where we have probable cause to arrest anyone.” True, the police have but one chance to play their hand, and nobody wants to screw this up. But surely things are progressing… right? Tim Parrish, the Greensboro detective who drew the case, doesn’t have much in the way of news. “It’s going,” he told me, a touch of woe in his voice. “It’s still being worked. Things are moving along. Not as fast as everybody wants, but they’re moving.” One source of the bottleneck, he tells me, is the backlog of cases at the State Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab, which is processing evidence from the crime scene. “We’re still waiting on that,” he told me. But still the people who love Deb Moy get together at least once a week and try to pass the good vibes on to their friend. And that’s what we did on that Saturday afternoon, me and Deb Moy’s best friends, in the corner of a downtown restaurant: we shared sorrow and concern; we shared the love; we laughed and reminisced. But underneath their cathartic lament, there is a core of steel. These women are angry: at the person who did this to their friend, at the people who use the fire at the castle on Summit Avenue as their personal 15 minutes of notoriety, at the reporter who pried the story away from the people who love her. And they are especially dismayed by the lack of progress in the case. They say it’s not the way Deb likes things to go. But for now they’re doing all that anyone can do: Pray for Deb Moy and her family. Pray for the soul of Ransom Hobbs and those he left behind. And if you know something, anything, about the fire at the castle, please call Greensboro Crime Stoppers at 336.373.1000.