Visitation held for woman, 2 children shot and killed in Asheville last week

A visitation was held Thursday at Hill Street Baptist Church in Asheville for Erica Smith; her son, Keithan Whitmire; and daughter, Harmony Smith; who were shot and killed last week. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

A community is in mourning after the killings of a woman and her two children.

Erica Smith, her son, Keithan Whitmire, and daughter, Harmony Smith, were shot and killed last week by Erica Smith’s boyfriend, Maurice Garner.

Thursday afternoon, a visitation was held at Hill Street Baptist Church in Asheville.

"These are children I watched grow up,” family friend Denise Carter said.

Like many others, Carter said she was stunned when she heard the news.

"I was so saddened by it,” said Ilka Bowditch-McDowell, another family friend. “I couldn't believe it had happened.”

"It can happen to anybody,” Michael Johnson, Erica Smith’s father, said. “Unfortunately, it happened to my family, but it can happen to anybody."

Though it’s been a hard time for the family, Johnson said he's putting his trust in God.

"One thing that I’ve learned growing up as a young kid, my mother always told me to be strong and that life wasn't going to be easy," Johnson said.

Johnson said he was devastated to hear that his daughter's boyfriend was the one responsible for the killings.

But Johnson said he's not mad at Garner, instead, he wishes he could have helped him.

"I wish I could have had a conversation with this brother, Maurice,” Johnson said. “Apparently this guy’s mind is troubled."

Johnson said he's dealt with troubled minds before.

"My son went through a spell of troubled times,” Johnson said. “He went to prison. He said, ‘Daddy, I’m stuck. I don't know what to do.’"

Johnson’s advice to his son was to seek Jesus, the same advice he has for people dealing with this loss.

"It’s going to take us a long time to heal from this,” Carter said. “It’s going to take Asheville a long time to heal from this."

The funeral is 3 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church in downtown Asheville.

The Erica Smith Family Memorial Fund was created to assist Smith's surviving children and the family affected by the shooting.

The fund will be used to help the family pay for funeral costs and other needs during the aftermath of this tragedy.

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