But both were working their way out of poverty and making plans for the future.
That all changed July 24.
Witnesses say a black man dressed in a red and black hoodie walked up to Magee’s vehicle where she was parked near John Exum Parkway, shot her once in the head, and drove off in a dark-colored vehicle with tinted windows.
Shepard’s partner, Megan Murray, said she’ll never forget getting home from work and the door being slung open and hearing Shepard say, “Stacy’s been shot.” The couple doesn’t have a vehicle, so they started out on foot from their Bellridge Road apartment, walking as fast as they could to the Parkway Community housing development on John Exum Parkway.
They said they were met part way by a city police officer, who then transported Shepard to the scene, she said. Murray said she was left to get there on her own.
At the scene, according to the women, was a large group of people, some of whom they say were nearby when Magee was shot.
“Somebody knows something,” Murray said. Shepard has the same feeling, and police investigators also believe someone has information about the shooter. Police have urged the public to help them find Magee’s killer.
Rumors continue to circulate about who the killer was and why he would shoot Magee. Police said they believe Magee was targeted to be killed.
Shepard said she and Murray moved to Johnson City several years ago after an acquaintance told them jobs were plentiful. They found a different reality and were homeless for two years before obtaining the apartment where they now live.
By 2015, Shepard’s daughter — who had been placed in foster care and adopted when she was around age 10 — had reunited with her birth family and moved to Johnson City to be near her mother, Shepard said.
Those years when Magee — renamed Rebekah Thompson by her adoptive parents — was away from her birth family were hard on her, relatives said. There were allegations of abuse, and she eventually ran away to live with a friend whose mother welcomed her. The woman who took Magee in helped her locate her birth family.
When she moved to Johnson City, she was able to use the Johnson City Housing Authority’s transition program for youth leaving foster care to get an apartment. She first lived in an apartment at Parkway Community, which is where she was killed. Just a few weeks before the shooting, Magee had moved to an apartment in Keystone.
Her mother said Magee had fallen into “the wrong crowd,” and the move was to get herself and her young daughter, 6-month-old Nakya, away from that environment and into a better place for the two.
She was also in the process of legally changing her name back to Stacy Magee, according to Shepard, and she had stopped using the name Thompson in everyday life. Only legal documents continued to show that as her identity.
In part, Magee’s obituary read:
“Wanting to be close to her birth mother, Stacy moved to Johnson City ... in the summer of 2015. It was here her life began. Within a few months she had her own apartment, a job and friends. She was loyal, caring and generous person. Stacy had a huge heart and believed in going above and beyond for her friends and family. On November 7, 2016, she was finally given what she always wanted, someone to love her without limits, a beautiful baby girl. The moment she laid eyes on Nakya at the hospital until her final breath, Nakya was Stacy's light in this dark world.”
For Shepard, the world has crumbled around her.
She, Murray and Magee had been making plans to leave Johnson City: they were working to save money for their relocation to Florida. Shepard said her daughter had looked into college programs, and wanted to study marine biology.
Back in the Parkway Community neighborhood, a new surveillance camera watches over residents. Housing Authority Director Richard McLain said security is a priority for the agency mission to providing safe and secure housing for low-income residents.
Because of an ongoing project to demolish and rebuild the neighboring Dunbar community, some surveillance equipment wasn’t operating, so there is no video of the homicide.
Anyone with information about the shooting is urged to contact investigators at 434-6166, or call the Crimestoppers tip line at 434-6158. To text a message, send the text to 847411 (TIP411), and include 423JCPD in the message containing the tip. Information can also be sent to www.citizenobserver.com or follow the links on the police department website, www.johnsoncitytn.org/police/cid.