Pregnant mother 'executed for refusing to have an abortion', family claim
6 June 2016
Candace Pickens is described by family and friends as a devoted mum who dearly loved her son Zachaeus (right)
Young mother Candace Pickens was shot at point-blank range – executed, her friends and family say, because she refused to have an abortion.
Candace was 23 years old and, according to multiple reports, in an abusive relationship when her body was discovered by a jogger in a park near where she lived. Police reported that she had been shot in the head at point-blank range – executed.
Her 3-year-old son was also shot in the head, but survived and is currently in hospital.
Friends and family describe Candace as a devoted mum who dearly loved her son Zachaeus.
"When she found out she was pregnant, she was scared at first,” Candace’s aunt, Irene Jenny Pickens, told the Washington Post. "But once she had that baby, it was so natural for her.
"She loved being a mother. And no matter what she was going through, I think he was the one thing that kept her going."
One thing it seems Candace was going through, according to those who knew her, was an abusive and volatile relationship. Her boyfriend, Nathaniel Elijah Dixon, had a violent history according to the Citizen-Times - including attempted robbery and allegations of domestic violence against another woman with whom he had a child.
In addition to his extensive criminal history, police believe Dixon may have ties to a Los Angeles street gang.
With all this in the background, Candace recently discovered she was pregnant – and friends and family members say she was clear that abortion was never an option.
They also believe that's why she was murdered.
Local residents lay flowers at an impromptu vigil in the park where Candace's body was found
"Murdered because she refused an abortion"
"Candace was an amazing mother, friend and person," one of her close friends, Vanessa Peterson wrote on a GoFundMe page she set up. "She was always smiling and made the best out of life. She had recently found out she was pregnant and was murdered because she refused an abortion.
"So many loved ones have lost such an amazing person and more importantly an innocent child has not only witnessed his mother’s murder the day after his third birthday."
A medical examiner confirmed that Candace was pregnant at the time of her death, police said. The examiner told WLOS that he didn’t know how far along she was in her pregnancy.
"He wanted her to abort the baby"
"He found out she was pregnant and he wanted her to abort the baby," 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."
She added: "You could tell things were going on between them based on what she was posting on Facebook — but I don’t think anyone expected anything like this."
Candace's son Zachaeus was also discovered at the scene of the crime, badly injured but clinging to life. His mother was declared dead at the scene.
Just one day after his birthday, the young boy had witnessed his mother being shot in the face before he endured the same fate and was left for dead.
Zachaeus was taken to a hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery. Police say he is in stable but critical condition.
Severely wounded but recovering
Mekia Waters, the child’s grandmother, told the Post that Zachaeus was shot in the head and lost his left eye; but she forcefully denied local reports that his chance of survival is just 50 percent.
"My grandson is in stable condition and doing great and he has the doctors surprised," Mekia told reporters. "He’s moving his arms and legs and he’s doing more than what people expected."
Dixon fled to Ohio, where he was arrested last month. WLOS reported that local police rescued a 21-year-old female hostage when Dixon was taken into custody.
The 24-year-old is awaiting extradition back to North Carolina, where he has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, according to authorities.
Christina Hallingse, a spokeswoman for the Asheville Police Department, told the Post that authorities can’t confirm whether Candace’s reported refusal to undergo an abortion was a motive in her killing, citing the ongoing investigation.
"The Asheville Police Department does not provide comment on an offender’s motive because that information is sensitive to the case itself,” Hallingse said. “Our responsibility at this point in the investigation is to present the best case possible to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution of the suspected offender."
Shock and mourning for local residents
The horrific double shooting has shocked local residents.
"Not only take this young mother’s life, cut down in her prime, cannot raise her son now, but then you turn around and shoot the child in the head," Keith Ogden, senior pastor of Hill Street Baptist Church, told WLOS. "That’s evil."
Ogden held a memorial for Candace at his church on Saturday. Hours later, mourners gathered for a vigil at the park where police say Candace was executed.
"Together in defiance of violence"
In a statement, the organisers of the vigil said: "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. To stand together in defiance of violence."
During the ceremony, WLOS reported, Candace's father "addressed the crowd, saying he doesn’t have bitterness in his heart, but forgiveness".