Days after an Apex woman and her 17-year-old daughter were killed in their home, tributes from friends and strangers have poured in, with many remembering the women for their close bond.
Melissa McLain, 44, and daughter Ashley Fite were killed early Saturday, Jan. 9, at a residence on Humie Olive Road. They lived in the home south of Apex with Lemuel Miller, McLain’s boyfriend, law enforcement said.
Miller, 47, who is suspected of killing them, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound shortly after the two women’s bodies were discovered, authorities said Saturday.
The Wake County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that the investigation is ongoing, although spokesman John Jones said there are no other suspects in the shooting.
Monday, as Fite’s classmates learned of her death, grief counselors were sent to Holly Springs High and Union Pines High School in Moore County, where Fite attended until this year.
Fite was only at Holly Springs High for a semester. She graduated early and planned to join the Marine Corps.
But she quickly made an impression, many said. Family and friends from both schools have posted dozens of tributes and photos on a Facebook memorial page for Fite.
“She was a beautiful and amazing girl,” said Holly Springs teacher Terri Wasley on the memorial page. “She will always be in our hearts.”
Fite spent her first three years of high school at Union Pines, where she was in the JROTC program.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Keith Dangerfield, the school’s Marines JROTC instructor, said Fite had a positive effect on everyone around her. She had served in a leadership position last year, he said, and had been a formal or informal mentor to most of the JROTC cadets at the school.
“She was a very loyal and dedicated cadet,” Dangerfield said. “She always had a smile on her face and always wanted to know what she could do for the unit. It wasn’t about her, it was about the unit.”
That sense of selflessness and joy was remembered by many.
“She was always happy,” said Sabrina Caddell, one of Fite’s longtime friends. “It was her dream to go into the Marines, but now instead of serving in the Marines she’s serving with the angels.”
Caddell, a 20-year-old from Carthage, said her younger sister Tabatha had been best friends with Fite since middle school. Sabrina Caddell drove them around, and she quickly became friends with Fite, too.
“I loved Ashley like a little sister,” she said. “And this has been so hard on my sister.”
The Caddells aren’t alone. On Fite’s memorial page, the messages paint an image of a young woman who was dedicated to her friends and always eager to offer support.
“She always gave me a hug every day I saw her,” wrote a former JROTC classmate. “She always made me smile when I couldn’t. She was always so supportive of me.”
Another former classmate wrote about how easy it was to connect with Fite.
“One day in my freshman year I met her,” she wrote. “She just started talking to me and getting me to open up and after that we were best friends.”
Meanwhile, those who knew McLain have offered prayers to the family on her Facebook page and in an online obituary guestbook. McLain is survived by a large family, many of whom live in Apex. They include another daughter, Caitlinn Crosson, as well as McLain’s parents, Alfred and Diana Mitchell.
McLain’s photos on social media show her grinning with her daughters and family members or out supporting local bands. McLain was a 1989 graduate of Fuquay-Varina High School and worked for MasTec, a construction company in Morrisville, according to her obituary.
“Melissa, your smile was contagious,” wrote Mickey Mann, of New Hill, in the funeral home guest book.
“We all, myself included, should live with a happy heart and huge smile as she did,” wrote Michael Scholl of Apex.
The families will receive friends Friday, Jan. 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Apex Funeral Home. A joint funeral service is Saturday, Jan. 16, at 11 a.m., Olive Chapel Baptist Church.
Families of both women asked that any memorial contributions be made to the Union Pines JROTC program in Fite’s memory.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran