It happened in Greensboro…
It happened in Greensboro…
On Friday nights in the Whiskey District, the music pours out onto the streets. When the weather’s nice, chatter floats above the patios and open doorways of the bars and caf’s; when it’s not so nice folks traipse across Walker Avenue from one warm, dry watering hole to another. This corner of Greensboro has served as an anchor to a certain segment of the community since even before Ogi Overman used to bang out his dispatches from the Suds N Duds. A neighborhood blooms in every direction from the corner of Elam and Walker avenues, Lindley Park, where young families share treelined streets with college students, hipsters, musicians and anyone else who doesn’t mind a little noise after dark. And there are other denizens of this thoroughfare, corner scenesters and the inebriate class, who may not live in the dwellings but log plenty of hours per week in this district devoted to all the exciting and wonderful things that can happen when the sun sets and the lamps get turned down low.
A tribeofregulars populates the corner of Walker and Elam on any given night, aloose amalgamation of locals and transplants with nothing more incommon than love of good, live music, open and accepting temperamentsand the desire to see and be seen. They own businesses, make art, workin area restaurants, play in bands, go to school… but when they come ondown to Walker Avenue, everybody’s on the same page. And maybe noteverybody knows your last name, but if you’re one of the tribe, thereis no more than a couple degrees of separation between you and anyother. Not everybody down here on the corner knows Deborah AnnMoy, the 36-year-old Greensboro resident who, any other autumn, wouldbe tearing it up with her friends at Walker’s or the Blind Tiger,sleeping in Sunday mornings and cheering on the Redskins when she woke.But since the morning of Sept. 13, Deb Moy has laid in a hospital bedin an undisclosed location, the sole surviving victim of one of themost brutal crimes in the city’s history… a living, breathing crimescene, fighting for her life as her friends and family form aprotective phalanx around her, struggling against incredible pain andshocking loss to voice the name of the one who did this to her. She’sthe only one who knows… her, and the killer who left her this way. Noteveryone on the corner knows Deb Moy, but
TheBlind Tiger is a stanchion near the corner of Walker and Elam avenues,the Whiskey District, where Deb Moy and Ransom Hobbs decided to keepthe party going. PREVIOUS PAGE: The William B. Vaught House on SummitAvenue, also known as the Castle, the scene of the crime. (photos byKeith T. Barber)
everyone who spends anytime with his elbows on the bar at Walker’s has heard the tale of apromising night gone terribly wrong, of the murder of one of their ownin the post-dawn hours and the savagery that befell her, the wicked,snarling thing set loose in her apartment that left her broken topieces and irreparably burned. Everybody down knows the story, because here is where the story starts.
It was just another Friday night in the big city, according to CraigTrostle, who was out with Deb the night of Sept. 12. “I had actuallyknown Deb for about 12 years,” he says. “She dated a friend of mine.”He had run into her at Fisher’s Grille towards the end of August, hesays, and they became reacquainted. “Deb is a lot of fun,” he says. “She’s always flirting, meeting people. She’s very vibrant.” Whenhe ran into her at the Blind Tiger that September night, he remembersshe was out celebrating with friends. “It was a birthday,” he says.“They had all gone out to dinner.” It was 11 p.m. or so, andHot Politics was ripping the air with horns on the Blind Tiger stage.Craig had just left the Carolina Theatre, where he works as astagehand, and ran into Deb and a couple of her friends as theycompleted the circuit between the Tiger, the Wahoo and Walker’s. Healso ran into William Ransom Hobbs Jr., a bluesman known to the tribesimply as Ransom, with whom he was loosely acquainted. “Youget introduced to someone who’s kind of in your circle,” Craig says,“you can kind of just assume they’re alright — they know the code andthey’ll be good, genuine, cool people.” xxx
Thegroup cast their lot together, and the night wore on and on. ChrisBoggs, a Greensboro resident and former marine, had dated Deb in thepast and the two remain friends. He says he saw her that night at theTiger. “We worked together at George K’s years ago,” he says.“She was connected to a lot of people in a lot of different ways.” Hesays he saw Deb and her party come into the Tiger at around 10:30 p.m.“The band was already playin’,” he says. “I remember there was a fellawho kept coming up and asking her to dance. He was like a cowboy — acowboy hat, boots a white shirt, kinda stylized. Shaved head. He cameup and danced with her and hit on her pretty hard.” The Walker Avenuerumor mill holds that there was a conflict between Deb and anotherformer boyfriend that night on the sidewalk in front of the Tiger. Butthere is not much evidence to support this. Doc Lucas, proprietor ofthe Blind Tiger, keeps a pretty sharp eye on the windows of his club.He was working behind the bar that night, and casts doubt on thisdetail of the story. “That’s all bullshit,” he says. “Therewas nothing like that. And if there was, my people would be on it insome way, especially if it was a guy-girl kind of thing with a regular.We would have heard about it, saw it… something.” ScottWilson, who spends most evenings on the sidewalk in front of the Wahoojust across the street, working the door, was also on duty that night. “Ifthere was anything like that,” he says, “I don’t recall.” As the hourssped towards 2 a.m. last call, Chris Boggs remembers the scene clearly. “When the bar closed,” he says, “I suggested we go to my houseto party. Initially they were into it, but she was talking to someother people, and she was more into going with them. As she wasleaving, she was laughing. They were all going to party somewhere.” Itwas Deb, Ransom, Craig and a friend of Deb’s, Kellie Edwards, an ad hocparty crew with casual connections who were not yet ready to call it anight. It happens all the time after last call on WalkerAvenue: The music stops and the lights come on, you pay your tab andlook at the person standing next to you. “Where you goin’ after this?”You hitch a ride or you throw a six-pack in your car and head over tosomeone’s house to while away the last vestiges of darkness and usherin the morning with your newfound friends. Kevin Coon,bartender at Walker’s Bar and a friend of Deb’s, was making drinks thatnight and remembers a few details. “They left at closing time,” hesays, and he personally walked the group over to the Tiger, gave themall hugs and bade them farewell. “Deb’s been in that circle ofpeople for a long time, so she knows a bunch of them,” he says. “Whenthey left I figured they were going to a late-night somewhere. Ransom wanted to get his guitar. He wanted to play.” He shales his head,
‘Youget introduced to someone who’s kind of in your circle, you can kind ofjust assume they’re alright — they know the code and they’ll be good,genuine, cool people.’ — Craig Trostle
“I just thought it was another night,” he says.
Craig Trostle picks up the thread. “Firstwe went to Ransom’s house to get his guitar,” he remembers. “He livedjust around the corner. The Deb said, ‘I got to pee.’” Because theywere in the neighborhood, Trostle took Deb inside the Carolina Theatreand let her use a bathroom in a dressing room. It was about 2:45 a.m.Before they left, Deb stood in the center of the darkened stage andmade a phone call. “Guess where I am,” she said on her cell phone. “I’mon stage at the Carolina Theatre!” They arrived at Kellie’s house inthe Westerwood neighborhood shortly after 3 a.m. “It was just Kellieand Ransom, playing guitars on the porch,” Craig says. “Then afterabout an hour, this dude Micah shows up.” Micah is one of the looseends of the story, a regular at the Westerwood Tavern with short blondehair. “He said I met him once at the Westerwood,” Craig says. “I don’tknow… I may have. He seemed like a nice enough fella. He seemed okay.But then, at one point, Deb jumped up and said, ‘This guy put his handup my dress! Get him out of here!’ But the next thing you know, they’resitting there with their heads on each other’s shoulders. You know, sheliked to be the center of attention.” It was Micah, Craigsays, who gave Deb and Ransom a ride over to Deb’s place to continuethe party. It was perhaps 4:30 in the morning. Craig crashed onKellie’s sofa. And according to an employee of the bar, Micah has notbeen seen at the Westerwood since. The house onSummit Avenue known as “The Castle” is an architecturally significanthome in the Aycock Historic District, built in 1906 as the residence ofWilliam B. Vaught, who at the time was a clerk at Cone Export andCommission Co. A noble granite structure with pilasters, porch archers
anda corner turret, it has long since been broken up into apartments thatattracts renters who appreciate its proximity to downtown and don’tparticularly sweat it when late-night parties happen. Deb hadbeen living here for about six years, and this is where she brought theparty. One can imagine they swapped tales and sang songs as the eveningrolled until dawn. Craig says that Kellie called Micah on his cellphone some time after 7 a.m. to remind him that he had to work thatday, and that he reportedly left Ransom and Deb in a condition thatcannot be called perfect, but can certainly be called good. And then ithappened. According to Greensboro police and interestedparties who prefer to remain anonymous, someone entered Deb’s apartmentas the sun crept over the horizon. In the ensuing minutes, he killedWilliam Ransom Hobbs Jr., then brutalized Deb Moy and beat herunconscious. He then took a flammable liquid that was on the premises,doused the bodies with it, and then set the crime scene ablaze. To date, no one has been charged with the crime.
David Hoggard liveswith his family in a house in the Aycock Historical District, about ahundred yards from the Castle on Summit Avenue. On the morning of Sept.13, he says he arose about 6 a.m., as is his usual custom. At around 8a.m. on this warm Saturday morning he headed over to the GreensboroFarmers Curb Market over on Yanceyville Street in his official capacityas a Parks & Recreation Department commissioner to talk to thevendors about an issue, and also to buy some tomatoes, some flowers forhis wife, Ginny, and a cinnamon roll to have with his coffee. Hestopped in his tracks when he smelled smoke. He cut through analley [where?] and came upon the Castle as flames licked from a sidewindow and black smoke blasted out. Once there he saw an acquaintance,Ross Myers, who said he was first on the scene. Ross had knocked on thedoor, he told Hoggard, and tried to get the people out, then found agarden hose and attempted to douse the flames. “There were twofire trucks,” Hoggard remembers. “Four firemen went in. These two cameout carrying this… carrying Ransom. And they laid him on the groundabout ten feet away. I knew it was a person, but my first thought was,‘I hope whoever this is is not alive.’ When they laid him down his armsstayed up. It was quite surreal.” The 911 call camein at 8:26 a.m., and the first responders got there in about fiveminutes. Firemen pulled Deb Moy from the flames and got her in anambulance. The Crime Scene Investigation team was on the scene by 1030a.m. to gather what evidence was left. “You can recover some things,”says Lt. Brian James of the GPD’s Criminal Investigation Department,“but fire does destroy some evidence. If I told you different it’d befalse. “We in no way feel like this is a random act,” hecontinued. “Because it happened at her residence, we’re led to believethat the act of violence was directed toward her. Ransom may have beenin the wrong place at the wrong time.” James is hesitant to say to muchabout an ongoing investigation, and he says the department is stillawaiting lab results from the State Bureau of Investigation as theoriesare constructed and broken down. “The first thing we do when we don’tknow who did something,” he says, “we look at the victim. Who dislikedthis person? Who did they owe money to? Anybody who was there, pastassociations who may have wanted to do harm. “That’s about where westand with this one.” Detective Tim Parrish drew the case. He’s beenwith the department for 27 years, about 10 of them working homicides. “I’veseen some bad ones,” he says. “This was horrendous. As far as thebrutality it ranks pretty high up there. There are people I’ve talkedto who are pretty torn up about it.” Parrish says he has some leads inthe case, and he awaits more information from the SBI, but he isreticent about details. “There’s information we don’t wantspread,” he says. “I got persons of interest who I am concentrating on.We’ve got items of evidence. I’m still getting information every day.You take all the information you can get and work it. I got this caseon the thirteenth of September and I’ve pretty much worked this casethe whole time. People have shock and awe about this case, but we stillgotta do it right. We gotta be fair. This isn’t an hour-long TV show.These things take time.”
Meanwhile DebMoy lies twisted in a hospital bed somewhere, ensconced by protectivefamily and friends. The fire ruined her legs, which not so long agocould dance all night, and both have been amputated. Doctorsare trying to save her hand. To facilitate healing and minimize painshe is often in an altered state of consciousness. In her wakingmoments, she has so far been unable to enunciate the events of thatevening. Ransom Hobbs was feted by dozens of his best friends in a memorial service at the Empire Room in Greensboro, and his death is mourned all over the world. Andpolice are still seeking leads in this savage series of events. Theyhave yet to charge anybody with the crimes. But Lt. James knows this:“Whoever did this,” he says, “was incapable of empathy.” Meanwhilein the Whiskey District, people still come together and talk about DebMoy, about Ransom, about the wild night and terrible morning theyshared. On Walker Avenue, in the scene that’s virtually built uponsimple human emotions like joy, love, friendship and, yes, empathy,they will not forget.
Anyonewith information about the murder of William Ransom Hobbs Jr., theassault on Deborah Ann Moy or the fire in the Castle on Summit Avenueshould call Crimestoppers at 336.373.1000 or call Det. Tim Parrishdirectly at 336.574.4008.
To comment on this story e-mail Brian Clarey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TheCastle was built in 1906 as the home of William B. Vaught. It has sincebeen broken down into apartments occupied by those who appreciate thehistoric architecture and the house’s proximity to downtown.