Pregnant woman executed for refusing abortion


Candace Pickens, 23, was a great mother to her 3 year old son, Zachaeus. Her Aunt, Irene Jenny Pickens, told The Washington Post:

“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.”

Unknown to her family members,  Candace Pickens was in a volatile and abusive relationship with Nathaniel Dixon, her boyfriend— one she managed to keep hidden from some a lot of people who knew her in Asheville, N.C., where she lived.

Her boyfriend, Nathaniel Elijah Dixon, had a violent history that included attempted robbery and allegations of domestic violence against another woman with whom he had a child, according to the Citizen-Times. In addition to Dixon’s extensive criminal history, police think he has possible ties to a Los Angeles street gang.

When Pickens recently discovered that she was pregnant with Dixon’s child, but Dixon who didn’t want to be a father to another child suggested she abort it but abortion was not an option, she told friends and family members, she would have a second child.

However, early in the morning on May 12, her body was found by a jogger in a park in Asheville. She had been shot in the head at point-blank range, police said — executed. Beside her, was Zachaeus her son who had also been shot but clinging to life.

Just one day after his birthday, the 3-year-old had witnessed his mother being shot in the face before he endured the same fate and was left for dead.

Pickens was declared dead at the scene. Her son was taken to a hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery; he is in stable but critical condition, police said.

Mekia Waters, the child’s grandmother, said that Zachaeus was shot in the head and lost his left eye. On Wednesday,  she said:

“My grandson is in stable condition and doing great and he has the doctors surprised.” “He’s moving his arms and legs and he’s doing more than what people expected.” “He’s talking, he asked for juice and he said ‘daddy,’” she added. “He even made his own song up about juice.”

Dixon, who also lives in Asheville, fled to Columbus, Ohio, where he was arrested last week, authorities said. WLOS reported that Columbus 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, authorities said.

To Pickens’s friends and relatives, the motive was clear.

“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.” Christina Hallingse, a spokeswoman for the Asheville Police Department, told The Post that authorities can’t confirm whether Pickens’s apparent 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.”

But the theory that Dixon decided to kill his girlfriend because she wouldn’t have an abortion was echoed on a GoFundMe page set up by one of her close friends.

“Candace was an amazing mother, friend and person,” Vanessa Peterson wrote. “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 Pickens 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.

Given the medical examiner’s finding, police aalso charged Dixon with first-degree murder of an unborn child.

Victoria Jayne, an assistant capital defender in Buncombe County, N.C., told The Post that Dixon has not yet been assigned an attorney.

On Facebook, hours before his capture in Columbus, Dixon shared three posts — including two private videos — about Pickens

Using hashtags including #Ripbabymamaloveu and #candaceuwillbemissed, Dixon’s Facebook page portrays a grieving man shocked by his girlfriend’s sudden death.

“Candace pickens was pregnant with my child…this morning i lost my child too,” he wrote. Many of his Facebook friends voiced support — although some pointed out that Dixon has been accused of killing the woman and unborn child he claimed to love, and nearly killing her firstborn son, as well.

The horrific double shooting 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 Pickens at his church Saturday. Hours later, mourners gathered for a vigil at the park where police say Pickens was executed.

“It is time for us to come together to grieve the loss of a special, young mother,” vigil organizers said in a statement. “To support the mothers of our community, especially the single mothers. To stand together in defiance of violence.”

During the ceremony, WLOS reported, Pickens’s father addressed the crowd, “saying he doesn’t have bitterness in his heart, but forgiveness.”

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