#UNSOLVED: Robbery gone wrong or planned murder on Christmas Eve?

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CASTLE HAYNE, NC (WWAY) — A murder on Christmas Eve almost twenty years ago remains a mystery to investigators.

It was Christmas Eve 1999.

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“She always put her Christmas tree up in October,” Ethel Greimann said.

Ethel Greimann said everyone knew how much her niece, Tera Tracy, 25, loved Christmas.

“She was always ahead of the game when it came to her tree,” Greimann said.



That year, Tracy had to work the over night shift on Christmas Eve.

“She worked the third shift, so she could watch the kids during the day and her husband worked during the day,” Detective Justin Varella said.

Detective Justin Varella with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office said Tracy was a clerk at The Pantry on Castle Hayne Road. The Pantry has since been replaced by a BP Gas Station. Varella also said Tracy lived right across the street from where she worked. Her house is no longer there. It has been replaced by a CVS.

That Christmas Eve shift would be her last.

“The bread delivery man was making the morning delivery and walked into the store only to find Tera’s body and there was a lot of blood,” Varella said.

Varella said the delivery man called 911 and when first responders arrived Tracy was still holding onto life. He said they did everything they could to try to save her life. She was pronounced dead later at the hospital.

“It was awful,” Greimann said. “It was something that should not have happened.”

What happened is something investigators are still trying to piece together.

“Tera actually suffered from multiple stab wounds,” Varella said. “She was stabbed in the head and the chest and the torso.”

Was it a robbery gone wrong?

“The cash register was knocked over in the store and an undisclosed amount of cash had been taken from the register, as well as probably some packs of cigarettes, because some cigarettes had been knocked over,” Varella said.

Something did not add up.

“The weapon that she was stabbed with was unique,” Varella said. “I won’t go into detail as to what that weapon was. It’s not something you see every day and it’s not something that’s typically used in the course of a robbery.”

There were no surveillance cameras, but Varella said they found evidence of a vehicle parked nearby.

“This is based on a K9 track that was done that leads to where what appear to be some tire impressions parked at a nearby church,” Varella said.

“Did she have enemies? Do you guys have any kind of motive?”

“To our knowledge, she didn’t have any enemies at the time,” Varella said.

Varella said Tracy’s husband at home right across the street when it happened.

“Fortunately her kids were actually with their grandparents or with another family member,” Varella said.

Varella said they do not know who did it, but he said they do know Tracy did not make it easy for them.

“Tera definitely defended herself,” Varella said. “She had defensive wounds where more than likely she had a shot on the killer as well and from what I’ve been able to determine about Tera and the type of person she was. She was a fighter.”

“She was definitely without a doubt a hard worker and she always put her children first,” Greimann said.

This dedicated mother, who spent her life fighting for her kids, was killed on Christmas Eve. It is time of year that now has a very different meaning for her family.

“This is a tough time of year for her mom,” Greimann said. “Her mom and I are really close and it’s been an absolute nightmare.”

It is a nightmare that has been going on for 18 years.

“Two years ago her mother was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and of course speaking on her behalf nothing would be better than to have this case solved,” Greimann said.

Greimann said someone has the answer.

“There is no doubt in my mind that someone knows who did this,” Greimann said. “After 18 years , I think it’s time to come clean.”

If you know anything about this case, please contact the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.