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Sheriff provides more detail on murder of diner waitress

Austin Amos Kennedy Byrnside, is charged with murder, and Maurice Jones Jr., is charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Austin Amos Kennedy Byrnside, is charged with murder, and Maurice Jones Jr., is charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

A popular Dixie Diner waitress died as the result of a BB-gun shot that passed through her eye and lodged in her brain, Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin said in a news conference Monday during which he also explained how the victim's son and grandson conspired to rob her in the early morning hours of May 6.

Responding to a 911 call at 2:46 a.m. at 39 Mo Drive off North Clear Creek Road, sheriff’s deputies and first responders found Paulette Gibbs "Paula" Clark badly injured with serious head and face trauma.

“At the time deputies and investigators were told that the assailant was unknown,” Griffin said. Based on “a lot of canvassing,”  interviews with witnesses and "different bits of information," detectives arrested Clark’s grandson, Austin Amos Kennedy Byrnside, 22, and her son, Maurice Jones Jr., 46.

Clark's daughter, who called 911, told a dispatcher someone had come in the house and beaten her mother. "We don't know what happened," the caller said. "It might be my son Austin. I don't know if it was or not. We don't know who it was, we think it might've been my son." She then can be heard asking her mother, "Do you think it was Austin?"

Byrnside, who is Jones's nephew, is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. He had been charged on the night of May 7 with identity theft, felony possession of cocaine and parole violation, according to jail records. He is incarcerated in the Henderson County Detention Facility without bond.

Byrnside has a criminal record dating to 2018 in Henderson and Transylvania counties, including charges of making threats, assaulting an officer or state employee, possession of drugs, assault and malicious conduct while in prison. Convicted in February 2020 in Henderson County of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, he was sentenced to five years and seven months in prison. He was released on April 14, N.C. Department of Public Safety records show

On May 19, the same day his nephew was charged with murder, Jones was picked up and charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery with a dangerous weapon and jailed on a $100,000 bond.

The investigation showed that Clark had been beaten with the butt of the air rifle and an autopsy revealed that the BB “traveled past Ms. Clark’s eye and caused trauma to the brain,” he said. “The damage to the brain is ultimately what caused her death.”

Byrnside came and went from the Mo Drive home of Clark, her husband, Marty, and one of her daughters and was not staying there the night of May 6, Griffin said. Byrnside and Jones, who is his uncle, had discussed the robbery a few days prior to alleging committing it. “During the early morning hours, Jones facilitated Byrnside entering the home," Griffin said.

Byrnside used the butt of an air rifle to assault his grandmother and fired the shot that ultimately caused her death, the sheriff said. Byrnside was arrested the next day at a different residence in Henderson County on the unrelated cocaine and identity theft charges, and was charged with murder 13 days later.

Griffin noted that Clark was the proprietor of the Dixie Diner. “And I can tell you that Ms. Clark was well thought of by many in our community,” he said.

Clark suffered broken bones, severe lacerations and "other major" injuries, according to an incident report.

Asked if he had any information on why the victim was discharged from the hospital with those injuries and a BB in her brain, Griffin demurred.

“Not a medical professional and I can appreciate the question," he said. "But we don't have an answer for that right now. I certainly don't have one.”

Paula's husband, Marty, said Saturday he did not want to comment on the arrests as it was his understanding the investigation is ongoing.

A disabled U.S. Navy veteran and retired cabinet maker, Marty Clark traced his wife's restaurant work to some 30 years ago starting at Frank's Roman Pizza in Hendersonville. She had also worked at a restaurant in Fletcher, as a manager of the old Quality Inn and at Nancy's in Mills River before moving to the Dixie Diner.

"People were so happy to see her take it over," he said. "There were a lot of smiling faces."

A new white dress shirt and new black trousers for the funeral Marty had bought for the funeral were laid out on his bed, price tags still affixed. Draped on a chair was a new American flag he plans to fly on a flag pole outside their home in Paula's honor after the funeral on Tuesday.

"She's safe, she's in good health, she's with the rest of the family," he said.