As soon as I saw a picture of Candace Pickens I began to cry. This beautiful 23 year old mother from Asheville N.C was shot at point blank range along with her son Zachaeus on the morning of May 12th. The violent crime occurred just one day after her son’s third birthday. Candace was pregnant with her second child and according to loved ones, her boyfriend Nathaniel Elijah Dixon was against her keeping their preborn baby. Candace’s close friend Vanessa Peterson said she was killed after refusing to have an abortion. Peterson wrote this message on a GoFundMe account:
Candace was an amazing mother, friend and person. 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.
It’s hard to even process Candace’s story because she reminds me so much of the young women I work with at my pregnancy center. Although it makes little sense when I learned of her death I thought, “Could I have helped her?” I never knew her but in her smile I saw a girl so similar to ones I’ve helped.
As a staff member at a CareNet affiliated center I’ve talked to women who were in dangerous relationships like Candace. I remember the caller who told me her boyfriend wanted her to drink bleach and get rid of the baby. I’ll never forget the woman who sought an abortion because she had an affair and feared her husband would shoot her if he found out. I can’t count the women who’ve been rejected and abandoned by men because, like Candace, they wanted their babies.
One of the important things my center and many pregnancy centers does is ask questions and screen women to look for signs of domestic violence. We ask pregnant women if they are experiencing any sort of emotional or physical abuse. If we discover they are being abused, we get them help through local and national domestic violence programs and safe homes.
According to the Washington Post, just four days before Candace was killed, she came to Vanessa’s house to talk. Candace said her boyfriend Nathaniel was making threatening statements to her since finding out he was the father of her second child. It breaks my heart to know that Candace was looking for help before she died but couldn’t find it. How I wish she could have called a hotline, reached out to a pregnancy center or found a domestic violence shelter.
Although the Asheville Police Department won’t release a possible motive in the case, an aunt, Irene Jenny Pickens, told the Washington Post in regards to Dixon, “He found out she was pregnant, and he wanted her to abort the baby. She would never do that. It wasn’t an option for her, and that’s what sparked the violence.”
Irene also shared how much her niece loved being a mother. Irene spoke in reference to Candace’s son Zachaeus, saying:
When she found out she was pregnant, she was scared at first, 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.
We hear so much from pro-choice advocates about women needing access for abortion. What about the women like Candace? Who is there to help the ones who say abortion isn’t an option for them? Where can they go? Where can young mothers that are fighting to keep their children in spite of extremely challenging circumstances find help? These women have stories to tell and they need our assistance. Pregnancy centers can be places of refuge for them.
Candace refused an abortion but how many women choose them because they are afraid? I still can see the look in the eyes of a young woman as she was being led into an abortion clinic by her boyfriend. I was standing outside and as she passed by, her eyes told me she didn’t want to do it. Preborn children are voiceless, but they aren’t the only ones. Women who are pressured to abort are rendered voiceless too.
According to Zachaeus’s grandmother Mekia Waters, Candace’s little boy was shot in the head; he lost his left eye but is thankfully in stable condition. Dixon has been arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder, child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and first-degree murder. He has also been charged with first-degree murder of an unborn child.
The GoFund me pages reads, “Justice for Candace and Zachaeus.” I hope they will receive that. I also will remember Candace’s story and work to make this world a safer place for pregnant women.
If you need help to get out of a domestic abuse situation, visit these websites:
Safe Horizon (help for victims of domestic violence)
Love Is Respect (domestic violence, dating violence, abuse)
You can also see this article for additional resources and ideas when you or someone you know is experiencing pressure to abort.