Deadly Asheville shooting highlights need to seek help for domes - FOX Carolina 21

Deadly Asheville shooting highlights need to seek help for domestic violence

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ASHEVILLE, NC (FOX Carolina) -

Before Erica Smith was found dead Wednesday night and five of her children shot, Asheville Police said there had been an argument at Smith's workplace between her and her boyfriend, Maurice Garner.

That seemed to be the only sign, at least publicly, there were problems.

"Violent relationships don't start out violent," said April Burgess-Johnson, executive director of Helpmate. "They start out with love and support.  Even after the violence gets involved, the victim might not want to go to law enforcement for whatever reason."

Helpmate is a domestic violence agency in Buncombe County.  Burgess-Johnson said some might think what happened to Smith and her children Wednesday night was an aberration, but instead, she believed it served as a tragic example of a trend seen thousands of times each year in the county.

"We answer 3,500 calls on our hotline (every year)," said Burgess-Johnson. 

Helpmate is bound by law on privacy, so they can't divulge any information on whether they ever had any contact with Smith.

Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper said that the lead-up to the shooting remains part of the investigation.

"We're trying to answer that question," said Hooper. "What was the impetus or catalyst for this?"

Smith died at the scene.  Her 15-year-old and 13-year-old children were also shot at the home, and later died at the hospital.  Three of Smith's other children were shot and are recovering from their injuries.

"In this case, we've lost multiple people, some of whom were children.  That has a ripple impact, not just on schools, but also on communities," said Burgess-Johnson.  "It's a tragic one."

Police and domestic violence agencies said that this serves as a wake-up call for victims of domestic violence, and those that are witnesses to it, to seek help.

"It's about one person in a family wanting to have power, control and dominance over their partner and often over other people in that family as well," said Burgess-Johnson.

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