GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — It’s been almost a year since Pleasant Garden mother Mary Ann Holder fatally shot her two sons, niece, nephew and family friend before committing suicide.
Holder shot and killed Zach and Dylan Smith, Ricky and Hannahleigh Suttles and Makayla Woods on Nov. 20, 2011 before taking her own life.
FOX8’s Cindy Farmer talked to Mary Ann Holder’s daughter, Christina Smith Key, almost a year after the tragedy about forgiveness and the search for answers.
These days, Christina Smith Key and her husband Jason’s home is a playground for their two toddlers, Tristen and Shianne. But there are still plenty of pictures of the loved ones they lost during the tragedy last year.
“Seeing their picture isn’t sad to us. We like to have them here and to show the kids. It’s just memories… it’s not a bad thing,” Christina said.
But not having her brothers Zack and Dylan, her cousins Ricky and Hana, and friend Makayla around still hurts — as does the fact that her mother was responsible for their deaths.
In the year since the shootings, Christina’s life has changed a lot.
She married the love of her life, a man who stood by her during her toughest time. And they are expecting a new baby in May.
“My whole life I had little people that looked up to me… and then in the matter of an hour I went from telling my youngest brother that I love him to no longer having any siblings,” she said.
The notes her Mary Ann Holder left didn’t provide a clear clue.
“A lot of people thought that it was premeditated,” Christina said. “And that was my biggest thing was that I could not.”
Christina said when she talked to her mother the night before the shooting everything seemed fine.
“I’m torn a lot of days because I do love her and I don’t want to use the word hate because I don’t hate my mom,” Christina said. “But I do struggle… I guess being a mom too plays a role in it. I don’t see how you could do what was done.”
Christina says she is not ready to forgive.
“I don’t know who to forgive,” she said. “It wasn’t her that day. So, I guess I just struggle with that.”
She does know one day she will have to explain it all to her children, especially to Shianne, a young girl she’s had custody of since Shianne’s biological mother, Beth Suttles, died several days after her birth. Beth was Christina’s aunt and the mother to Ricky, Hana and Shianne.
“Definitely she will be told about her mother and her brothers and sister,” said Christina’s husband Jason. “When the time is right.”
One thing Christina says helped her in the days following the shootings were the kids, the friends of her brothers and the cousins who turned to her for advice in coping.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Cindy Farmer also recently interviewed the ex-husband of Mary Ann Holder and the father of their two sons. Click here for that interview.