RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The 6-year-old girl whose father is charged with fatally stabbing her along the Blue Ridge Parkway had “an unforgettable smile” and much gratitude for a free pair of shoes that a church gave her, said the minister who will lead her weekend memorial service.
Lila Pickering “wears her joy and demonstrates such a visible gratitude,” the Rev. Jeremy Woods said Thursday in a telephone interview, speaking of the girl in the present tense.
Woods is pastor of Biltmore Church, where a celebration of life service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the church’s Asheville location. The church and the elementary school Lila attended sit beside each other.
Lila attended the church’s fall festival last October and received one of 250 free pairs of shoes that the church donated in December to children attending the school, he said.
“It was a day when there was a lot of joy, a lot of energy,” Woods said. “When I look back on that day, it warms my heart to know that we as a church had an opportunity to put a smile on her face.”
Lila’s father, 36-year-old Seth Willis Pickering, faces state and federal murder charges in her stabbing death on Sept. 9. He’s being held without bond in the Buncombe County Jail with a federal court appearance scheduled for Oct. 5.
The Associated Press left messages for the public defender who represented Pickering in a first court appearance.
An affidavit filed by a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation said two parkway rangers were approaching the father and daughter on an embankment when they saw her father stab Lila.
Pickering told the rangers that he killed his daughter because he didn’t want anyone to take her away from him again, according to the court document.
“Now they will never be able to take her away from me,” he said, according to the affidavit. It added that he also said something to the effect of “she’s happier now … it’s what she wanted.”
The child was stabbed in the heart, according to the autopsy.
Woods declined to comment on whether Lila was living with either of her parents last year. The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that Lila had been in the temporary custody of caretakers for about a month amid a custody dispute between her parents. Her mother, Ashley, has moved to Florida and told the newspaper she was trying to get permission to move Lila there.
Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at —http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc. Her work can be found at —http://bigstory.ap.org/content/martha-waggoner.