Retro Charlotte

Murder at the Alamo Plaza Motel

Two men walk from the Alamo Plaza Motel in July, 1988.
Two men walk from the Alamo Plaza Motel in July, 1988. The Charlotte Observer

(An Observer photographer says he and a reporter were told to spend a night at the Alamo Plaza after this crime, for deep research. They declined.)


July 27, 1988

By John Minter and Nancy Webb, Staff Writers

Two men were shot to death early Tuesday at the Alamo Plaza motel after one apparently tried to stop another man from beating a woman less than an hour earlier, a witness said. The two were found dead about 12:53 a.m. in a parking lot at the rear of the North Tryon Street motel. A third man was seen running from the motel toward 26th Street. A motel resident who asked not to be identified said one of the victims tried to stop a man from assaulting a woman in the parking lot near the shooting scene.

"He was beating her in the head with his fist, " the witness said. "A man came over and told him to stop."

About 12:40 a.m., the witness heard eight quick gunshots. There was a pause, then four more.

The man who fired the gun ran past a dumpster and climbed over an 8-foot chain-link fence. Police have yet to determine a motive for the slayings. By late Tuesday, no arrests had been made. The victims were tentatively identified as John Williams Jr., 44, and Sylvester Williams, 27. No address was available for either. Police were uncertain whether the men were related but said the two were not brothers. Motel clerk Nanu Patel said neither man was registered at the motel. The clerk said Sylvester Williams had come to the motel office moments before the shooting and asked for toilet paper. Another motel resident said Sylvester Williams had lived at the motel on and off for three years. The Alamo Plaza motel, 2309 N. Tryon St., is about a mile from uptown. ... During the first six months of this year, police responded to about 530 calls at the motel, including 176 domestic assault calls. Police officials say the number of calls is rivaled by only a few other Charlotte locations.


The Alamo Plaza Hotel Courts built in 1945 was Charlotte’s first one-story, park-near-your-room lodging business. By 1988, however, North Tryon Street motel had become a flophouse that was a haven for prostitutes and drug dealers. Police visited the Alamo more than 250 times that year, including for a double-homicide after one man tried to stop another from beating a woman.

The motels 93 rooms rented for $20 a day then, or $69.95 a week.

In 1989 the city forced changes at the motel. Troublemakers were evicted, fences repaired, security guards hired, and the Alamo became the Crown Motor Inn. Desk clerks required identification when checking in and visitors had to pick up passes at the office.

But those changes didn’t make a difference and in 1991 the North Tryon Area Coalition led the fight to tear down the motel, saying “It’s been a disgusting blight.” According to reports, demolition workers found a man sleeping in a room crowded with mattresses, magazines and rubble. Above his bed was a small electric fan, hooked up by jumper cables to a car battery. On the walls, pictures of the Dalai Lama and naked women were taped next to newspaper food pages. - Jim Morrill, 1992

The motel at 2309 N. Tryon (beyond the Amtrak station and WSOC) was razed in 1992. The site stands empty today. -Maria