An Asheville, North Carolina community is still reeling days after Candace Pickens, 23, was found dead with a point-blank gunshot wound to the head, according to The Washington Post.
Her three-year old son Zachaeus was lying next to her, shot in the face. He lost his left eye, but is currently in stable condition.
Pickens’ boyfriend, Nathaniel Dixon, 24, was arrested on May 13 in relation to the crime. He was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, and first-degree murder of an unborn child, and is currently awaiting extradition back to North Carolina after fleeing to Columbus, Ohio.
WLOS reports that police rescued a 21-year-old female hostage at the time of Dixon’s arrest. Hours before his capture, The Post reports that Dixon shared three grieving posts on Facebook. “Candace pickens was pregnant with my child…this morning i lost my child too,” he wrote.
Pickens’ family and friends say she was the victim of an abusive relationship, one she kept hidden from those who knew her best. Ultimately, they believe her refusal to get an abortion led to her death.
“He found out she was pregnant and he wanted her to abort the baby,” Candace’s aunt, Irene Jenny Pickens, told The Post. “She would never do that. It wasn’t an option for her, and that’s what sparked the violence.”
Authorities have not revealed the motive for the shooting. A medical examiner confirmed that Pickens was pregnant at the time of death, but could not confirm how far along she was, according to WLOS.
Dixon has a lengthy criminal background, the Citizen-Times reports, including attempted robbery and domestic violence allegations involving another woman with whom he had a child. Police believe Dixon also has affiliations with a Los Angeles street gang.
Pickens was described as a doting mother. “When she found out she was pregnant, she was scared at first,” Irene Jenny Pickens told The Washington Post. “But once she had that baby, it was so natural for her.”
“All women out there that’s going through some type of abuse just should get out of it,” said Keesha Martinez, Pickens’ mother, in a tearful interview with WSPA. “My daughter lost her life because of it.”
Pickens’ funeral will be held in Asheville on Saturday, May 21.