Mother hopes message at daughter's funeral will help domestic violence victims stay alive

"I thank God that he blessed me to have Erica, Keithan and Harmony," Kassandra Smith said of her daughter and grandchildren who were killed last week in a case of domestic violence. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

More than 1,000 people paid tribute Friday to an Asheville mother and her two children who were killed last week in a case of domestic violence.

Police said Erica Smith, her daughter Harmony Smith and son Keithan Whitmire were shot to death by Erica's boyfriend, who then killed himself.

But Friday was time for what was called a "Victory Life Celebration." A mother and grandmother spoke out, hoping her message to "tell somebody" helps others stay aware and alive.

First Baptist Church of Asheville was jammed with more than it could hold, the sanctuary alive with exuberance and emotion.

It was a funeral for a mother and her two children, their caskets adorned with bouquets of flowers. And, for the first time in public, a mother and grandmother uttered the names of her precious family.

"I thank God that he blessed me to have Erica, Keithan and Harmony," Kassandra Smith said.

The three were remembered by family, friends and even strangers, people reaching out with love.

There were teachers who had watched young students learn and grow.

"We laughed, a whole lot, struggled and learned together," Asheville High principal Dr. Jesse Dingle said of Keithan. "Though he faced many challenges, he let me into his life. I'm a rich man to know him. I miss him everyday."

"As incredibily hard for any of us to understand, I am sure that our loving God opened his arms and greeted her in heaven with love and compassion and, although her time was far too short, her purpose was complete," Asheville Middle School principal April Dockery said of Harmony.

Kassandra Smith, Erica's mother and Keithan's and Harmony's grandmother, who first quietly approached podium was suddenly caught up in the spirit, the visceral energy of it all, the crowd feeling it with her.

Kassandra Smith ended by reading a poem title "Tell Somebody."

"If he's abusive both physically and mentally, because of his inability to act sensibly, tell somebody," she read.

"If he asks you to be his wife, and in the next breath threatens to take your life, tell somebody."

It was a poem she no doubt hopes will deliver a clear message that might help keep other children and grandchildren aware and alive.

Eblen Charities has set up an Erica Smith Family Memorial Fund to help assist her four living children and other family members in the days and weeks ahead.

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