RED BANK — As South Carolina sheriff’s deputies worked to develop a motive for why a man shot his estranged girlfriend and her two children, the woman’s family struggled Wednesday to cope with the death of a loved one they described as outgoing and full of life.
“She was the greatest sister in the world,” Josh Hartley said about Amanda Peake, 28. “How could you ever do that to somebody?”
Lexington County deputies say Peake’s estranged boyfriend shot her, her 9-year-old son Cameron and 6-year-old daughter Sarah inside the family’s home in the community of Red Bank on Tuesday night. Deputies say the man, whom they have not identified, then turned the gun on himself.
Peake’s neighbors named the boyfriend as Chancey Smith, a motorcycle enthusiast from the Orangeburg area. A Facebook profile for Smith listed his interests as motorcycles, hunting and “killing things.”
Deputies were trying Wednesday to determine what prompted the shootings and haven’t determined if there were previous reports of domestic violence involving the couple. Neighbors said only Peake and her children lived in the one-story, vinyl-sided home where the shootings happened.
Inside Peake’s house on a quiet cul-de-sac that backs up on woods, blood stains were still visible Wednesday on the beige breakfast room carpet. A red couch held a pile of laundry waiting to be put away, with several towels neatly folded on the floor nearby. A single black leather girl’s shoe lay abandoned by the front door. Magnets on the refrigerator spelled out “I LOVE MOM” and the two children’s names, Sarah and Cameron.
Family friend Margaret Fisher says Peake had been raising her children alone since her husband died in a fire four years ago.
“This is the family that was taken away today,” Fisher said, her eyes welling up with tears as she held a framed photograph of the smiling family.
Hartley said he had last spoken to his sister on Tuesday night about her recent breakup.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” said Hartley, as he and other relatives gathered photographs and personal belongings from Peake’s Wednesday. “I don’t wish this on anybody else. Love your family while you’ve got them.”
Neighbor Tammy Smith said she struggled with how to explain the deaths to her 11-year-old son, who recently threw a football with Cameron in the neighborhood’s cul-de-sac.
“What do I tell Dawson?” Smith wondered. “Do I tell him that they just moved?"