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Ortralla Mosley

Ortralla Mosley


Trella's Story

Trella's Story: A Shining Star Goes Dark

By Jordan Smith
Featured in the Austin Chronicle, May 16, 2003

Carolyn Mosley Samuel mourns -- and celebrates -- the memory of her daughter, Ortralla.

Carolyn Mosley Samuel stands just inside the entrance to her low-slung brick house, in the center of a tree-lined and well-established Northeast Austin neighborhood. On the street, teenage kids play basketball and younger children ride bicycles, laughing in the waning light of a mid-April evening. Samuel fingers the framed edges of a wedding photo taken in March, picturing her smiling family members fanned out in front of an altar. On March 15, after nearly 13 years of single parenthood, Carolyn Mosley married Jeff Samuel. The union fulfilled Mosley's long-held wishes for her two teenage daughters and one teenage son: She wanted them to know what it is like to have a complete family, she said. She wanted them to see and to feel a healthy, committed relationship. "That made me feel good," she said. Mosley got her wish, and just in time.

Just 13 days later, at 4:22pm on Friday, March 28, the Austin Police Dept. was called to Reagan High School. Fifteen-year-old Ortralla Mosley, Carolyn's youngest daughter, had just been stabbed to death in a school hallway by her former boyfriend, 16-year-old Marcus McTear. According to those present that afternoon, the scene inside Reagan's Old Mall was chaotic. Students and teachers were "screaming, crying, and hollering," they said -- no one could believe what was happening. EMS paramedics tried to resuscitate her, but Ortralla Mosley was dead at the scene. It was Austin ISD's first on-campus homicide. Ortralla Mosley was a good student, a cheerleader, a school dance-squad leader -- a responsible and thoughtful girl well liked by both students and teachers. "She was absolutely a shining star," said Vanessa Connor, Ortralla's English teacher, who was with her as she lay dying that Friday afternoon at the foot of a school stairway. "She was the person that a lot of students, particularly the girls, would go to when they were having problems. ... They really looked up to her." McTear, her former boyfriend, arrested and charged with first-degree murder in her death, was a Reagan football player and reportedly also a popular student, with apparently -- at least at first -- an unremarkable past.

District officials quickly defined Ortralla's killing as an act of domestic violence: "Domestic violence cannot be tolerated anywhere. We must have civility and respect," said Superintendent Pat Forgione.