When she answered her phone, Gwendolyn Frierson was crying.
"You just caught me when I was thinking about him," Frierson said, trying to control her emotions.
Once Frierson got to talking about her late fiancee, Terry Williams, the tears went away and she couldn't be stopped.
"Oh my God, I loved him," the 50-year-old Frierson said. "He would talk all the time, and I would just listen to him. He never had that before. If the women in his life gave him a little bit of what he needed, I would have never met him because they would have never let him go."
Now Frierson is having a tough time letting go of Williams, who was shot to death in a downtown Quincy apartment Jan. 3, the victim of Quincy's first murder in more than two years, according to police.
Williams, 53, died at Blessing Hospital less than 40 minutes after members of the Quincy Police Department arrived at the scene of the shooting, an apartment complex at 219 S. 11th. Frierson was at the couple's apartment in the Indian Hills housing complex when the shooting occurred. Ill with a stomach ailment, she was waiting for Williams to return home so that he could get some medicine for her. She was awakened by a call from the hospital with news that Williams had been shot.
"I will never forget that phone call," Frierson said. "The woman asked me if I knew Terry. I didn't hear much else she had to say from that moment on. It was terrible."
She's trying to figure out what happened to Williams and why he was killed.
Both Williams and Frierson are originally from Arkansas. Williams was born in Jonesboro in the northeast part of the state and lived there for 10 years until his family moved to Chicago. Frierson grew up in West Helena, a small Mississippi River town on the Arkansas-Mississippi border. They didn't meet until 2005, when both lived in Quincy.
"I remember that he cooked me dinner and brought it to me on my birthday," Frierson said.
Later that month, Williams celebrated his birthday by breaking up with his girlfriend at the time and moving in with Frierson. After more than seven years of dating, the couple were planning to get married this summer.
"He was a husband to me, and I was the bride that he needed," Frierson said.
The couple enjoyed a simple life at Indian Hills, a Quincy Housing Authority complex on the city's southwest side. Williams, Frierson said, had just been put on disability. She called him a "jack-of-all-trades." He injured his back nearly 20 years ago while moving heavy equipment on a job in Chicago, she said. He had three surgeries on his back, the last one coming last year. That meant he primarily stayed near the couple's apartment. Frierson didn't leave the house much, either. She has been unemployed and living on public aid.
Frierson said Williams hadn't been out of the house in two weeks but made a trip to the complex to help a friend who needed to get some people out of her apartment.
"I guess that's where it all went down," she said.
Vincent B. Carter, 44, has been charged in Williams' death. He is facing a first-degree murder charge. According to police, Carter allegedly shot Williams with a semiautomatic pistol and fled on foot. He was captured less than 24 hours later on Quincy's north side.
Frierson had never heard of Carter before the shooting. She didn't think Williams had any prior connection to him.
"I don't think he knew him," Frierson said. "He might have known him in passing, if he knew him at all. If they were buddies, then Terry would have brought him to the house and drank a beer with him on the couch or something like that."
Frierson left Quincy soon after Williams' death, but she plans to return to a city that she says she loves.
"It kind of reminds me of home," Frierson said of Quincy. "There's not a lot of crime there."
Frierson plans to follow Carter's case as it weaves its way through the court system.
"I am not for the death penalty, but I want him to pay for what he did," she said. "He knows what happened. Him and God and Terry know what happened. Whether they convict him or not, he will have to pay to God for this."