Paoli Police Department Provides Update on Murder/Suicide

(PAOLI) – Paoli Police Department Sgt. Tyler Phillips provided the following update on the murder/suicide in Paoli.

On July 31, 2019 at 11:30 a.m., Orange County Central Dispatch received a call from a concerned relative of William and Amber Tracy. They requested a welfare check after being unable to contact them several times by phone.

Police officers then went to the Tracy home at 615 SW 1st St. in Paoli.

When police arrived they met with relatives who said it was unusual that they could not reach the family by phone. Adding to their concern was recent domestic issues between the couple.

The officer knocked on the front door and verbally identified himself. After many attempts, there was no response from inside.

The officer attempted to looked through covered windows but was unable to see inside.

The officer explained to the caller that he did not observe any indication the Tracys were in distress and that there was no evidence of a crime. Nothing was observed to justify forcing entry into the private residence. Regardless of requests from family members, if they do not live in the residence, they cannot authorize forced entry.

In order to breach an exterior door to gain entry to any private residence, a police officer must have clear and articulable facts to justify a warrantless entry. Before the officer left the home, the relative was encouraged to call if further assistance was needed.

At 12:50 p.m. Orange County Central Dispatch received a second call from this same relative. They had entered the home through an unlocked window and found two individuals unresponsive.

Paoli police officers were notified and the same officer immediately returned.

This officer entered, cleared the home for safety, and determined that the individuals found were in fact deceased.

The officer secured the home, utilizing barrier tape to establish a crime scene. He then requested assistance from other officers and the county coroner.

Agencies who responded were the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Town of Paoli, Animal Control and the Orange County Coroner’s Office.

After arriving, Orange County Coroner Aaron Kemple confirmed positive identification of both decedents. They were identified as husband and wife; 29-year-old William Tracy and 28-year-old Amber Tracy. Both lived in the home along with their two children, ages 9 and 7. The children were not home at the time of this incident.

Once removed from the home, the bodies were transported to the Lawrence County morgue by Southern Indiana Transport.

Autopsy exams were completed on August 1, 2019 by Forensic Pathologist Dr. James Jacobi. Investigators from the Paoli Police Department and Orange County Coroner’s Office were also present.

Autopsy findings determined both Amber and William Tracy died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

Amber’s manner of death was determined to be a homicide, while William’s manner of death was ruled suicide.

After collectively reviewing and evaluating physical evidence, witness statements and autopsy findings, investigators have concluded Amber Tracy’s fatal wound came from a 9mm, semi-automatic handgun, owned by William Tracy.

The round was fired by William Tracy, who later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. This round was fired from the same firearm. The estimated time of death for both Amber and William Tracy is during the early morning hours of July 31, 2019 on or around 2:30 a.m. It is unknown exactly how much time passed between their deaths. It is however believed to be minimal.

The investigation included but was not limited to crime scene processing and evidence collection (“teching the scene”), witness interviews, digital evidence review, and post-mortem findings.

Investigators have determined the series of events preceding the shooting. A description of those events will follow:

On July 30, 2019, Paoli Police officers were dispatched to the Tracy residence on two separate occasions. These calls were a direct result of an ongoing domestic dispute between William and Amber. Both requests for law enforcement were made by an unrelated third party and not the family member previously mentioned.

The first call was initiated at 9:34 p.m. The 911 call to Orange County Central Dispatch reported loud yelling coming from outside the home. The caller felt a domestic dispute was taking place and wanted officers to investigate the disturbance.

A single Paoli officer responded and confirmed the Tracys were the source of the disturbance. This officer followed protocol by speaking to each of them separately, assessing them each for injury or evidence of domestic violence, and evaluated their potential for future violence.

Both Amber and William were asked multiple times by this officer if they had been victims of a crime. Both denied they were and there was no visible evidence to the contrary.

Amber told the officer she was safe and did not wish to leave the residence.

The officer determined both had phone access if the need to seek assistance arose. Both also stated they could leave the property if they wished. Both independently stated many times they did not need assistance from the police.

Before leaving, the officer advised both parties if further was needed they should call 911.

After leaving the Tracy residence, this officer documented their demeanor as cooperative and after he directly asked, both denied the need for law enforcement assistance. However, the officer noted he felt the situation had the potential to escalate and reminded other officers to remain vigilant if calls for service were made in the immediate future.

Due to shift overlap, the second call was answered by a different Paoli officer. An Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy also responded for assistance.

During each law enforcement contact, both Tracys admitted to having a loud verbal dispute, however, both independently denied anything physical had taken place.

The officers involved did not observe evidence of a crime or had a reason to make an arrest. In accordance with Indiana law and department policy, officers could not have removed either party from the residence against their will.

Regarding the Tracy children, investigators determined at the time of this incident that both children were with their paternal grandmother.

After the bodies of Amber and William were discovered, the Department of Child Services was contacted and immediate assistance was requested.

Subsequently, the children were interviewed and they are not believed to have been the victims of any crime.

After interviews, the children were placed with other family members. Currently, their permanent placement has not been determined.

Although foul play has been eliminated as a possibility in this incident, Paoli Police investigators are continuing to follow-up on this case.

If anyone has any information they feel would aid in the investigation, contact Detective Brandon Mesarosh or Sergeant Tyler Phillips at 812-723-2836. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Tips may remain anonymous.

This is a tragic example of what can occur when someone finds themselves in the “Cycle of Domestic Violence”. This cycle is made up of four phases including buildup, violent incident, reconciliation, and hope.

When someone finds themselves in the “Cycle of Domestic Violence”, it is not uncommon for them not to seek help, accept assistance, or leave the situation. There are many reasons for this but primarily it due to fear of the consequences or fear that no one will believe them if reported.

When a victim fails to leave and a tragic event occurs, it is important to remember it is not their fault. In their minds, there may be a reason they felt they had to stay.

If you find yourself falling into the “Cycle of Domestic Violence,” the officers of the Paoli Police Department strongly encourage you to seek help.

It is a common misconception that police are required to make an arrest when called to a domestic dispute. If you reach out to our agency, we will always respond to assist. We pledge to do everything within our legal right to aid in keeping victims safe. This includes any minor children who may be witnessing the violence or hear threats of violence.

The Paoli Police Department would like to publicly acknowledge and thank all of the other public service agencies that assisted in this investigation. It was essential and greatly appreciated.

Assisting Agencies: Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Orange County Central Dispatch, Orange and Lawrence County Coroners, Dr. James Jacobi, Indiana Dept. of Child Services, Paoli Animal Control Officer Justin Burton,
Southern Indiana Transport, Southwestern Indiana Child Advocacy Coalition, and all of the local radio/television media members.