Triumph over Tragedy: The Pleasant Garden murders 1 year later

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — FOX8’s Cindy Farmer sat down and talked to the ex-husband of Mary Ann Holder and the father of their two sons – who says his life will never be the same.

Pleasant Garden mother Mary Ann Holder fatally shot her two teenage sons, Zach and Dylan Smith, and her nieces and nephew Ricky and Hannahleigh Suttles and Makayla Woods on Nov. 20, 2011. Holder then took her own life.

Rocky Smith said he can’t escape the memories of that day. He said his life changed forever but his faith held him up.

“I felt the arms of God grip me and pull me up,” he said. “And at that moment I heard this voice that said ‘you can’t go down now, you’ve got a job to do.”

In the days and weeks that followed, he said that he and Christina did their best to comfort all the friends and family members, grieving the ones they loved.

“There’s days I get out of bed and Gail gets out of bed… and we don’t know how we get out of bed… the pain never goes away,” he said.

But life goes on.

“The bottom line is… it’s done,” he said. “So what do we do now? So do we sit back and talk about the negative… or do we move forward and talk about the great things… the positive things?”

Organs harvested from the victims helped save the lives of several people – 23 individuals from heart donations alone.

Rocky Smith started Rocky Smith Ministries in January. Rocky and his wife currently travel on the weekends, performing music and sharing their story.

“When people ask me why she killed the kids… my comment is typically… she had to go… and she done what she’s always done… she took her kids with her. Because she loved the kids,” Rocky Smith said.

Rocky’s wife Gail agrees that Mary Ann Holder loved her children.

“I believe like Rocky did that she loved those kids,” she said. “I believe that. And I think that… if something good can come out of this… that’s what we would want. That’s what the boys would want.”

Rocky Smith says he forgave Mary Ann Holder since the day he heard about the shooting. He says forgiveness is part of the healing process.

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