Gaffney killer had plans to marry girlfriend

Patrick Tracy Burris
Patrick Tracy Burris

Patrick Burris, the N.C. man who killed five people in the Gaffney area of South Carolina, had planned to marry his girlfriend of two years who he met during a work-release program from prison.

When Burris was released from Lincoln Correction Center April 29, he and his fiancee, Martha Ugalde, lived together in a hotel and then moved to a mobile home park in Vale, N.C., a small community northwest of Lincolnton.

Jimmy Vargas, Ugalde's son, said Burris was trying to turn his life around.

“They were talking about the wedding,” Vargas said. “They were waiting for his birth certificate to arrive.”

Vargas, who lives in Lincolnton, said Burris had a job as a tree-trimmer, but was arrested June 12 for driving with a suspended license. Vargas bailed him out of jail.

He said Burris feared he would have to return to prison for a year because of his arrest, but that he told his mother, “the time would go by quickly.”

But a few days later, Burris left Vale, and his fiancee didn't go with him.

A few days later, Burris met Mark Stamey, 35, and his sister Sharon Stamey, 31. The Stameys said they began “partying” with Burris, but that he would at times disappear.

On June 27, police say Burris shot and killed peach grower Kline Cash, 63, in Cherokee County. Four days later he shot and killed Hazel Linder, 83, and her daughter Gena Linder Parker, 50. Last Thursday, Burris fatally shot Stephen Tyler, 48, and wounded his daughter. Abby Tyler, 15, died two days later. Their funeral is set for 4 p.m. today in Gaffney.

Police have speculated that Burris killed so he could get money for drugs.

“I never saw with him with drugs, I never saw him with a gun,” Vargas said. “He was just a normal guy trying to start over. Everything seemed normal. But he had to drive to get to work, and his license got revoked. That's what got him in trouble.”

Vargas said his mother, who came to the United States from Costa Rica 10 years ago, is devastated.

“She's really shocked,” Vargas said. “She couldn't believe it.”

Burris was shot and killed early Monday morning at an abandoned house near Dallas. Burris had come to the house with Stameys to sleep after more than three days of partying, according to the Stameys. But a neighbor called the police.

Burris fired a shot at a Gaston County Police Officer, hitting him in the leg. The police then shot and killed Burris.

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