Domestic cycle leads to Paoli murder-suicide

From Local Sources

PAOLI — Police say a murder-suicide last week is a tragic example of what can occur when someone finds themselves in a cycle of domestic violence.

It was at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday when Orange County dispatchers received a call from a concerned relative of William and Amber Tracy requesting a welfare check after being unable to contact them by phone after several attempts. A Paoli Police Department officer responded to their residence at 615 SW First St. in Paoli.

At the home, the officer met with the relative, who said it was unusual to be unable to reach them by phone. Adding to the concern, police said, were recent domestic issues between the couple.

The officer knocked on the front door and verbally identified himself. After many attempts with no response, the officer looked through covered windows but was unable to see inside. The officer explained to the caller he did not observe any indication the Tracys were in distress and there was no evidence of a crime. Nothing was observed to justify forcing entry into the private residence, police said.

Regardless of requests from family members, police said, 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, an 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 dispatch received a second call from the same relative. They had entered the home through an unlocked window and found two individuals unresponsive.

The same officer returned, entered, cleared the home for safety and determined the two individuals were deceased.

The officer secured the home using barrier tape to establish a crime scene. He then requested assistance from other officers and the Orange County Coroner’s Office. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Town of Paoli Animal Control also assisted.

After arriving, Coroner Aaron Kemble confirmed positive indentification of both decedents. They were identified as husband and wife, William Tracy, 29, and Amber Tracy, 28. Both lived in the home along with children ages 9 and 7. The children were not home at the time of the incident.

Once removed from the home, the bodies were transported to the Lawrence County Morgue by Southern Indiana Transport. Autopsy findings determined both Amber and William Tracy had died from single gunshot wounds to the head. Amber’s manner of death was determined to be homicide, while William’s manner of death was ruled suicide.

After collectively reviewing and evaluating physical evidence, witness statements and autopsy findings, investigators concluded Amber Tracy’s fatal wound came from a 9mm, semi-automatic handgun owned by William Tracy. Police said the round was fired by William Tracy, who later died from a self-inflected gunshot wound. This round was fired from the same firearm, police said.

The estimated time of death for both Amber and William Tracy was during the early morning hours Wednesday, on or around 2:30 a.m.

Police had been dispatched to the Tracy residence Tuesday on two separate occasions. Those calls were a direct result of an ongoing domestic dispute between William and Amber, police said. Both requests for law enforcement were made by an unrelated third party and not the family member previously mentioned.

The first call, at 9:34 p.m., 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 Paoli officer responded and confirmed the Tracys were the source of the disturbance. The officer followed protocol by speaking to each of them separately, assessing each for injury or evidence of domestic violence and evaluating their potential for future violence.

Both Amber and William were asked multiple times by the officer if they had been victims of a crime, police said. Both denied that and there was no visible evidence to the contrary, police said. Amber told the officer she was safe and did not wish to leave. The officer determined both had phone access and both stated they could leave the property if they wished.

Before leaving, police said, the officer advised both individuals to call 911 if further assistance was needed. After leaving, the officer documented their demeanor as cooperative; 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 to the home was answered by a different Paoli officer. An Orange County 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 did not observe evidence of a crime and did not have a reason to make an arrest, police report.

At the time of the fatal incident, investigators learned the 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, police said, the children were interviewed and they are not believed to have been the victim of any crime.

After interviews, the children were placed with other family members.

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

Police say the cycle of domestic violence is made up of four phases, including buildup, violent incident, reconciliation and hope. When someone finds themselves in the cycle of domestic violence, police said, it is not uncommon for them not to seek help, accept assistance or leave the situation. There are many reasons but primarily it is 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.

Paoli police pledged after the incident to do everything within the department’s legal right to aid in keeping victims safe. This includes any minor children who may be witnessing the violence or hearing threats of violence, police said.

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