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‘People loved her’: Colleague of woman slain in Watauga County shooting speaks about shocking killings

Updated: Apr. 30, 2021 at 9:19 PM EDT
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WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Wright Tilley, the executive director of the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority, said he worked with Michelle Ligon for several years and was shocked by her tragic death. Ligon’s office is just across the hall from Tilley’s workspace.

Tilley spoke to WBTV in an interview Friday evening, just days after Ligon and her husband, George, were allegedly killed by Michelle Ligon’s son, 32-year-old Isaac Barnes. Two sheriff’s deputies were also killed during the standoff that happened at the family home. Tilley described Michelle Ligon as ‘very friendly’ and said she always wanted to help people.

“People loved her. We’ve been bombarded with messages from her colleagues and friends,” explained Tilley.

He said he also knew George Ligon, describing George as a ‘great guy’ with a ‘big smile’.

“You could tell they enjoyed being with each other and there was that special bond,” said Tilley.

He recalled the day the killings allegedly happened, explaining that it was unlike Michelle to miss work without informing anyone.

“When she didn’t show up for work Wednesday morning, we were a little concerned because that’s definitely out of character for her,” explained Tilley.

He said texts and calls to Ligon went unreturned. When he and his colleagues learned of the standoff happening at her home, they knew she might be in trouble.

“We tried to stay as hopeful as we could be throughout the whole day and I don’t think we ever gave up that hope until into the evening hours when it started to become apparent that people weren’t getting out of that house,” said Tilley.

Ligon’s colleague also said he had met her son, the alleged killer, and never knew of any troubles with the family.

“You just never know what somebody’s going through,” said Tilley. “If there was anything previously that led up to this, there certainly weren’t any indications to us.”

Ligon said he and the other members of the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority appreciate the supportive calls and messages they’ve received in the wake of Ligon’s death. He said they hope to do something within the authority to honor her.

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