Arrest after mom shot to death, son hurt in Asheville playground

Candace Pickens and her 3-year-old son

ASHEVILLE, NC (WSPA)- Police in Columbus, Ohio say they have made an arrest following the shooting of a pregnant mother and her son in Asheville.

Nathaniel Dixon

Asheville Police say 24-year-old Nathaniel Elijah Dixon has been charged in connection with the murder of Candace Pickens and the attempted murder of her son. Dixon faces charges of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury.

Investigators determined Dixon left the Asheville area for Columbus, Ohio. A coordinated effort with the Columbus Police Department helped make the arrest. Dixon is in custody awaiting extradition back to North Carolina.

The arrest comes after Pickens was found dead on an Asheville elementary school playground early Thursday morning. The medical examiner confirms that Pickens was pregnant at the time of her death. She was shot in the face and her young child was also found shot in the head.

Asheville Police say the son went through surgery Thursday night and is stable, but in critical condition.

Playground 1Police say 22-year-old Candace Pickens of Asheville was found at 6:20 a.m. near Ira B. Jones Elementary on Kimberly Ave.

“It’s just a sad tragedy that he has to grow up without a mom,” said Candace’s mother, Keesha Martinez through tears.

She says her grandson was shot on his third birthday and that she believes Candace was pregnant.

“The guy who did this is such a coward.  He didn’t have to hurt her like that.  He didn’t have to hurt my grandbaby like that.  He took a beautiful life that I can’t get back,” said Martinez.
Candace’s mom says that the toddler came out of surgery Thursday evening and has lost one of his eyes.  They have not been able to see him because he is isolated in a silent, dark room during recovery.

Ira B. Jones Elementary sent this message to parents and staff:

“First of all, let me say that there is no direct threat to the school and your students are going about their normal classroom activities. But because the police are currently conducting an active investigation in the park area, students will remain indoors all day today, Thursday.”

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