Judith Foster calls him a “momma’s boy.” Everyone knew it, too.
Paul Fyffe, Jr. was interested in more than just how his mother was doing. “He was interested in my heart, emotions, and how I was truly feeling,” Judith recalls.
Once Paul moved off to begin college in North Carolina, he never let schoolwork or other activities get in the way of his relationship with his mother. The two would talk for hours on the phone, catching up on the new happenings in each other’s lives. Judith would often visit Paul on campus.
Paul grew up in Florida and Massachusetts as the youngest of three children. He loved to spend time at the beach. Paul was a smart kid, Judith said. “He was forming full sentences when he was only two-years-old,” she says. “I knew he was going to be smart right then.”
Judith learned a lot from her youngest child. “He would push me to be observant, even with the smallest creatures,” Judith said. She specifically recalled a time when Paul taught her about ants, stating so emphatically, “see, they work together, they cooperate.”
She laughs thinking back to the time Paul came home with a note pinned to his chest from his kindergarten teacher. It read, “Change Begins With Me.” She takes that to heart now more than ever.
That smart two-year-old grew up to be a smart college student. Paul moved to North Carolina to study computer science and marketing at Johnson C. Smith University, a private, historically black university. He was nearing graduation, and Judith couldn’t wait to see what he would become after school. Paul loved to take things apart. That curiosity led him to computer science. “inventions he could have created, invented to change the world,” are thoughts Judith has now.
On February 20, 2013, the mother-duo tandem spoke on the phone, discussing Paul’s expected graduation date and the requirements he needed to meet to walk across the stage and receive his degree.
That night would be the last time Judith spoke to her son.
Just two days later, on February 22, Paul was shot and killed in the parking lot of a nightclub. He and some friends were attending college night at Club 935 in downtown Charlotte.
Judith can still recall that fateful night to excruciating detail – the memory has been ingrained forever. Judith was working the night shift at the time. She was returning to her mother’s house where she had a message on the phone from the police. They gave her a number to call back, but not much more.
When she reached back out to the police, she received the news – Paul was dead. They, unfortunately, couldn’t give any more information. They didn’t have any details to share.
“Club shootings are difficult, just because of the number of people and things happen so quickly,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Detective Jacqueline Carter told Fox 46 News on the fifth anniversary of Paul’s murder in 2018.
“The rest of 2013 was a blur,” Judith stated. She struggled to cope with her son’s death until coming out of her “funk,” as she described, in 2014. She called herself a “recluse,” hiding in solitude. Judith eventually recognized the disservice she was doing to her other children – they still needed their mother, now more than ever. “I had checked out,” she says. It was tough, but Judith had to learn to balance providing for her children while mourning the loss of another.
To help cope with losing Paul, Judith started a non-profit in 2014 in his honor. Paul loved to be out in nature, so Judith did some research and found that nature is a proven healer. She founded the Healing Empathy, Redemption and Oasis Nurturing Center, or HERO Nurturing Center, to lead nature healing walks at no charge.
Finances can be tight for some, and Judith didn’t want to cause additional stress or burdens on those already struggling emotionally.
Judith also organizes and participates in talk therapy, drum circles, and meditation to help herself and others cope with losing a loved one.
Paul’s murder didn’t just leave a mother, siblings, and friends grieving his loss. It left his daughter without a father. India was just three years old when her dad was killed. She is now 10 and has grown up without knowing him. Judith spends time scrapbooking to savor memories. She works on one specifically for India. It’s full of memories that she was too young to remember.
Following Paul’s murder, Judith learned a lot about her son. He volunteered and mentored at an underprivileged boys’ group in Charlotte. He donated a lot of his own clothing to the same group. Paul was well-liked and respected on campus. A lady working at the school’s registrar office told Judith just what an amazing student and gentleman Paul was. Learning these things meant a lot to Judith. She was beaming with pride for her son.
As uplifting and encouraging as the interactions and stories Judith learned were, the investigation of the murder and surrounding struggles were difficult. Judith attempted to file a wrongful death suit against the night club but was informed that she couldn’t due to waiting a full year after the incident. Judith says that she was never informed of this deadline.
Additionally, she had to fight the university to receive Paul’s posthumous degree.
The investigation itself has been another struggle. Judith says she hasn’t been updated on the case in over a year, and that regular updates are spotty. She’s frustrated and upset, feeling as though there is a lack of interest from the investigators in solving Paul’s murder.
Judith continues to fight for justice for her son. She continues to honor his life through the H.E.R.O. organization and studying to graduate college herself. It was a promise she made to Paul, and one she has every intention of keeping.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Paul Fyffe, Jr., please call the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department at (704) 336-7600.
Research and Impact
Many times, survivors that are navigating the trauma and grief that comes along with a homicide can feel isolated from others. These feelings can become overwhelming in the belief that they are alone, that they are the only ones navigating this journey, that no one else understands their hurt.
At Project: Cold Case, we work to ensure families understand and consider the benefits that joining a grief support group can offer. Cold cases often pass through many years and decades with no resolution, leading some families to cite the time as a reason not to address their mental and emotional health. Research suggests, however, that trauma from sudden and violent losses of a loved one can have adverse effects on one’s mental health and the grieving process.
Project: Cold Case hosts monthly Survivor Grief Support Meetings in hopes to support those that are continuing to navigate their grief. We have begun digital meetings to comply with social distancing guidelines and to offer our assistance to even more families. If you are interested in joining these meetings, please check out the Support Group page and contact us to be added to future meeting lists.
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