ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — A candlelight vigil was held Saturday night for a pregnant North Carolina mom who was shot and killed and her toddler son was shot in the head.
Candace Pickens, age 22, was found dead on an Asheville elementary school playground early Thursday morning.
She was shot in the face and her young child, Zachaeus, was also found shot in the head. Zachaeus had just turned 3-years-old earlier the day before the shooting.
Pickens, of Asheville, who was confirmed as being pregnant, was found at 6:20 a.m. near Ira B. Jones Elementary on Kimberly Avenue.
“(The) community will gather to mourn the loss of one of our community members from an act of violence at Jones Park on Saturday at dusk,” friends and family said on Facebook about the vigil which was held at Jones Park in North Asheville.
“It is time for us to come together to grieve the loss of a special, young mother. To support the mothers of our community, especially the single mothers,” the group also said.
Facebook photos from the Saturday night vigil showed people gathered around a large photo of Pickens and her son with flowers and candles lit and placed in a circle.
The medical examiner said that as of Friday the 3-year-old is still in critical condition.
WLOS reported that the suspect in the murder had been dating Pickens for a few months and that Pickens was pregnant with his child.
“She had recently found out she was pregnant and was murdered because she refused an abortion,” friends wrote on a GoFundMe page set up for Pickens’ family.
24-year-old Nathaniel Elijah Dixon has been charged in connection with the murder of Candace Pickens and the attempted murder of her son.
One person who lives near the park said he heard a popping noise late Wednesday night that kind of sounded like firecrackers.
Candace’s mother, Keesha Martinez, spoke to local media.
“It’s just a sad tragedy that he has to grow up without a mom,” Martinez said through tears.
She says her grandson was shot on his third birthday.
“The guy who did this is such a coward. He didn’t have to hurt her like that. He didn’t have to hurt my grandbaby like that. He took a beautiful life that I can’t get back,” said Martinez.
Candace’s mom says that the toddler came out of surgery Thursday evening and has lost one of his eyes. They have not been able to see him because he is isolated in a silent, dark room during recovery.
Dixon faces charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury.