LAURINBURG — On the day investigators confirmed the worst fears of those who knew and loved Angela Terry, friends and family gathered at her parents’ home to remember the woman with a zest for life who last Friday would have celebrated her 36th birthday.
“I will be prejudiced with anything I say, because she’s my daughter,” said Angela’s father, the Rev. Fred Terry, “but she was the best daughter a father could ever ask for.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Terry learned that skeletal remains found in a city neighborhood nearly two weeks ago belonged to his “baby,” a 27-year-old mother of three — a daughter for whom he has been searching for nine years.
On Memorial Day 2004, Angela brought her daughter Shamani, then 11 months old, to see a friend in the Washington Park neighborhood. She called her dad later that night and asked if he could come pick up his granddaughter, saying she wasn’t ready to leave by the child’s bedtime.
She helped to buckle in the baby girl and watched as her father drove off. It was the last time Shamani, now 10, would feel her mother’s touch.
Angela’s remains were found Oct. 9 near woods at the 300 block of Kinlaw Drive when a passerby spotted what looked to be a human skeleton among some piled leaves and debris, an area newly visible a day after surrounding underbrush had been cleared.
Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin Williams, who went to high school with Angela’s brothers, had a hunch that would prove to be correct.
“We notified the family just so that they were aware, to prepare them a little,” he said the day after her remains were found whole standing near police tape as city investigators and a crew from the State Bureau of Investigation worked to bag evidence.
For Angela’s father, children and siblings, learning of her death after spending nine years on a roller coaster of finding hope, and then losing it again, came as bitter relief.
“Now that we know, it’s going to be easier,” Terry said, “because with her gone, and what we’ve been going through with not knowing, it was hard sometimes.”
Terry, the pastor of First Thessalonians Missionary Baptist Church in Gibson, said he knows judgment for Angela’s killer awaits in the afterlife. But he can’t help think that it should also come here on Earth — if not for him, for her children, the other two now ages 20 and 16.
“I’m a minister and I hold no malice against anyone,” he said. “I can’t afford to harbor hate in my heart or hold a grudge but I still feel that justice should be served.
“My plea to this community and to all of her loved ones is that if they remember anything, anything at all, even though it has been nine years, that they come forward. … We live in a town where people should want to try to help one another and to help us find closure — complete closure so we could really let this all be over with.”
Terry said the woman whom he calls “a child at heart” was a loving, generous and trusting person whose personality brought her much love but also jealousy.
“She could make anything gorgeous,” he said. “She would go in the house and tie a rag around her head and look like she was going to a ball.
“I ask that no matter what you thought of her, that you look at the success of her children, and that will tell you everything you need to know.”
Freddrick, the oldest, is a college student who graduated high school with a 3.9 grade-point average. His brother, Sedric, is a good high school student. Their little sister, whom Angela last kissed goodbye, Terry calls a “computer whiz” — though she has struggled at times without her mom.
On Tuesday, Terry held Shimani’s face in his hands, brushed back her braided hair and looked for a glimpse of his daughter’s light in her eyes. His granddaughter is the “spitting image” of her mother, he said.
“It’s always disturbing when someone goes missing and you hold out all hope, hoping that they will be found safe and alive,” Williams said. “This is not the outcome we were hoping for.
“She comes from a very religious family, a very strong family. I know, at this difficult time, they will be strong for each other.”
Terry says he will hold a memorial for his daughter, but definite plans have not yet been set.
Abbi Overfelt works for Civitas Media as editor of The Laurinburg Exchange.