On their last night together, Brandon Parker and Tracia Hubbard had dinner at downtown Macon’s Tic Toc Room.
A bartender who served the couple the night of April 22 told police that Parker had shrimp tacos with wine. Hubbard had sushi and a couple of mixed drinks.
When Hubbard tried to pay the bill, her debit card was declined. Parker paid instead.
The couple argued as they walked toward the Bourbon Bar on Cherry Street. Hubbard stopped along the way to talk with a couple of women she knew.
She later told police that Parker pushed her after the conversation, calling her a “fake ass b----.”
Hours later, a Bibb County deputy found a note inside Parker’s car that read, “One thing for sure I got money on my card and I don’t need your money or you I’m done #FakeAssB----.”
Parker, 33, had been shot to death. Hubbard, 48, was charged with murder.
Now, months later, prosecutors have dismissed the case, saying they would be unable to overcome a defense that the shooting was in self-defense amid a history of domestic violence.
Parker’s family has continued to investigate the case, angered that it was closed without being presented to a grand jury.
They dispute the notion that Parker was abusive and argue instead that his girlfriend should be held responsible for shooting him.
Barbara Parker, a federal prosecutor who is Brandon Parker’s aunt, said her family is saddened and disappointed by the district attorney’s office’s decision not to pursue the case.
She said District Attorney David Cooke isn’t being the victim’s advocate that “he needs to be.”
Asked about the decision not to move forward with the case, Cooke told The Telegraph he has an ethical obligation to take cases to the grand jury only when he believes the evidence supports the charge.
“If I am not convinced in my own mind beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant is guilty, then I shouldn’t bring the case to begin with,” he said.
Belinda Parker, Brandon’s mother, said she’s still fighting to get justice for her son.
“It’s hard for us to know the truth, and it’s almost like there’s nothing we can do about it,” she said.
A missing piece
Parker’s family had planned to gather on April 23, a Saturday, to celebrate the renaming of a portion of Elm Street to honor the Rev. Jacob Parker, Brandon’s grandfather.
Parker’s mother chose his middle name, Jacobian, to honor her father, who pastored at Ebenezer Baptist Church for nearly 50 years before retiring.
While working as a claims representative at Geico, Parker served as the church’s assistant pastor, helping minister to the congregation that meets near the intersection of Telfair Street and the now Rev. Jacob Parker Memorial Way.
Belinda Parker described her son as a caring, easygoing man. He was a jokster who liked to have fun.
A grandson of the late soul singer Otis Redding, he loved to sing gospel music.
Redding and Parker’s grandfather were friends, she said.
In school at St. Peter Claver Catholic School, Belinda Parker met Otis Redding’s son, Dexter, and they formed a close relationship that years later resulted in Brandon’s birth.
Called to the ministry nearly 10 years ago, Brandon Parker was interested in community outreach and showing that “you can be young and still do the work of the Lord,” she said.
The father of an 8-year-old son, Parker was a “big kid” who enjoyed playing with his son, nieces and nephews.
He also had interest in becoming an entrepreneur and starting a food truck, his mother said.
I had a feeling that I’d never felt before. It was like a piece of me was no longer in existence.
Brandon Parker’s mother, Belinda Parker, said of the moments after she heard her son had been shot.
Belinda Parker said she was asleep at her home in Atlanta about 1:30 a.m. April 23 when her mother called and told her that Parker had been shot.
“I had a feeling that I’d never felt before. It was like a piece of me was no longer in existence,” she said.
On the drive to Macon, she refused to answer her cellphone, although it rang and rang with family and others trying to reach her.
She didn’t want to hear the words that she knew were true: her only son was dead.
Last night out on the town
Investigative records obtained by The Telegraph through an Open Records Act request detail events leading up to Parker’s fatal shooting outside Hubbard’s mother’s Grosso Avenue home:
After arguing with Parker on their way to the Bourbon Bar, Hubbard walked alone to the Parish restaurant on Cherry Street, where she sat at the bar from about 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., she told police.
She said she ignored calls and messages from Parker while talking with the bartender about her troubles.
At some point, she called her son and asked for a ride home.
Before arriving home, Hubbard got a text message from Parker. He said she owed him money for dinner.
She stopped off at an ATM, withdrew money and wrote a note to Parker that police later found in his car.
Hubbard later told investigators that she went to Parker’s home on Dove Street and left the money and note on the windshield of his car.
Later, at Hubbard’s mother’s home, Parker knocked on the door. The couple argued outside.
Hubbard contends that Parker punched her in the head and chest with a closed fist, although an investigator noted in a report that there were no marks or bruising visible on her body to substantiate that claim.
Hearing the commotion, her mother and son came outside during the argument. Hubbard’s son confronted Parker at some point, saying he had ignored Parker’s abusing his mother too many times, and it was going to stop.
In the midst of the commotion, Hubbard went to her car and got a .38-caliber revolver from the glove box. She told investigators her plan had been to fire a “warning shot.”
She told Parker to leave. He taunted her to pull the trigger, she said, telling her, “So you gonna shoot me? … Shoot me then,” she told police.
The situation escalated, and the two shoved each other.
Hubbard fired one shot.
She yelled for someone to call 911.
When emergency workers arrived, they saw Hubbard trying to perform CPR, crying hysterically.
‘He’d had enough’
In the months since Parker’s death, Belinda Parker, his mother, said she’s waded through much of the investigative file.
There are parts that she hasn’t reviewed yet. She doesn’t think she’s ready.
Looking through her son’s wallet, she found a $5.48 receipt from a downtown bar from the night of his last outing with Hubbard. She figures he was having a soft drink while trying to figure out where Hubbard was so he could take her home.
Investigators’ records show that Parker went to Hubbard’s mother’s house twice that evening.
Knowing her son, she said she figures the first trip was Parker’s trying to make sure that Hubbard had gotten home OK.
I know my child. That’s too much drama for him. … He was done. He’d had enough
Brandon Parker’s mother, Belinda Parker
Family members who went into Parker’s home after his death found signs that he’d sat at the kitchen table after returning that night.
His Bible was open. He stopped in mid-sentence while writing a sermon.
Belinda Parker said a friend who called Parker that night has told her that he’d asked Parker to ride along while he looked for someone.
Parker agreed and went outside.
That’s when she thinks her son saw the note from Hubbard that sparked his second visit to the house on Grosso Avenue.
Parker had talked with his parents about Hubbard a few days earlier, his mother said.
“Brandon was trying to find a way to break things off,” she said.
She thinks her son confronted Hubbard and had gone back toward his car when Hubbard’s son came out and a shoving match ensued.
She said she believes Parker broke up with Hubbard that night outside the house just before he was shot.
“I know my child. That’s too much drama for him,” she said. “He was done. He’d had enough.”
Allegations of abuse
The prosecution’s file includes a series of reports compiled by an investigator hired by Hubbard’s attorney, Franklin J. Hogue.
In them, several witnesses described alleged episodes of domestic violence.
One woman said she saw swelling and redness on Hubbard’s face after Hubbard told her Parker had slapped her at the Bourbon Bar in January. Afterward, the woman called a cab for Hubbard, but she saw Parker dragging her by the arm, trying to pull her to his car instead of the taxi, she told the investigator.
The woman said she intervened and helped Hubbard into the taxi.
A co-worker told the investigator she recalled a day in 2014 when Hubbard came to work with a busted lip and an eye swollen shut. She said Hubbard told her that Parker had hurt her.
Another woman said she remembers seeing Hubbard wear glasses to hide a black eye and coming to work with her leg in a cast or a boot. She said it wasn’t uncommon to see bruises on Hubbard.
The investigator spoke with another woman who said Hubbard admitted that Parker had hurt her after seeing Hubbard’s make-up wear off, making a black eye visible.
When interviewed by police, Hubbard said she never filed a police report about the alleged abuse because of Parker’s position at his grandfather’s church.
Hubbard moved to the Atlanta area sometime after she was released on bond this summer.
Hogue said his client was “very relieved” when he called her with the news early this month that the case had been dismissed.
Belinda Parker said Hubbard interacted with Parker’s family regularly, often multiple times a week.
“If she had come in here beaten and abused or anything else, I would have seen it,” she said. “I never saw a black eye. I never saw a bruise.”
I never saw a black eye. I never saw a bruise.
She said she questions why Hubbard would keep seeing Parker and visiting his family if she was being abused.
Cooke said the “overwhelming majority” of domestic violence victims suffer for years before they leave a relationship.
“The most dangerous time in the cycle of violence is that day when the victim says ‘no more’ and breaks it off,” he said.
Parker was known to walk away from conflict. He didn’t have a problem with anger, his mother said.
She said Hubbard told her and her family that she twisted her ankle after falling down stairs while wearing stilettos. Hubbard showed her a picture of the shoes.
Since Parker’s death, she said she’s talked with a man who was in the car with Parker when they saw Hubbard fall down the stairs. She provided that information to the district attorney’s office after prosecutors dismissed the case.
She said she asked Hubbard questions after seeing her wearing a wrist brace, and Hubbard said she had a problem with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Since Parker’s death, she said she’s talked with family, Parker’s friends and co-workers. No one saw signs of abuse.
No one has interviewed her family or the others she talked with about Hubbard’s claims that Parker abused her, she said.
“I believe that justice will be served somewhere,” she said. “If not on this earth, then it may be on the next.”
‘This should not go unnoticed’
Belinda Parker was driving home from work in seven lanes of Atlanta traffic when the district attorney’s office called saying charges against Hubbard were being dismissed.
The call came before Parker’s family had an opportunity for a face-to-face meeting about the case.
Unable to get out of her car and fighting traffic, the grieving mother felt helpless.
“It tore my insides out,” she said.
About a month later, she and others from her family and the Redding family met with prosecutors about the case.
They asked for the case to go forward, but the district attorney’s office refused. Prosecutors said they would review any new evidence the family might find.
That’s when she set out investigating her son’s death.
She and others in the family think there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial to get justice for Parker.
Talking with The Telegraph last week, she recalled a bartender’s statement to investigators that he’d heard Hubbard say she’d kill Parker.
An investigator’s report provides the context that the comment was part of a conversation in which Hubbard said she’d kill Parker if he cheated on her.
Barbara Parker said it’s difficult for her family to begin to heal in light of prosecutors’ decision.
“He can’t defend himself,” she said. “We now have to take care of him the best we can and then take care of each other. … A part of us died with him.
“This should not go unnoticed.”
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.
Amy Leigh Womack: 478-744-4398, @awomackmacon