Vigil held for Lakeland triple murder victims

May 29, 2014 

The mother of David and Danyala Smith stands with her close friend at a vigil outside the family's Lakeland home. Photo by Paul Mueller/Bay News 9.

LAKELAND -- A somber vigil was held Wednesday night for the victims of a triple-murder in Lakeland earlier this week.

The memorial outside the victims’ home in the 5600 block of Old Road 37, near Cherry Lane and Schoolhouse Road, continued to grow throughout the night Wednesday.

Nearly 75 family members, friends, and loved ones came to remember the three people shot to death inside the home.

On Tuesday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd identified the victims as the alleged shooter’s sister, Danyala Smith, 31; Miranda Mims, 28; and Nikosi Williams, 25.

The alleged shooter, David Eugene Smith, 27, was captured in Knoxville, Tenn. Authorities said he died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

At the vigil, the mother of David and Danyala Smith spoke out for the first time since the shooting.

“I can’t get my daughter back,” said Debra Pfaff, their mother. “Nothing can bring either one of them back.”

Pfaff said she wished her son would have gotten the help he needed and if his mental health issues had been properly addressed, this tragedy may have been prevented.

"I try to go on,” she said, “but I feel so empty." Pfaff feels so empty among so many.

Her 14-year-old niece, Channell Walters, found the bodies.

"I didn't deserve that,” she said of having to discover the three bodies, let alone one of them being her own mother. “They didn't deserve that and I wouldn't wish that upon anybody."

As people paid their respects to her family, Walters said she feels sorry for her uncle and her grandmother agreed.

"I don't really want to blame anybody,” said Pfaff. “I just want us to go on with our lives."

"I know that my mom would just want me to be successful,” said Walters. “She'd want me to keep on moving forward in my life. So yes, I am thankful but I wish none of this would have happened. I wish that they could also be here."

They are a family torn apart and now left to grieve and try to figure out how it could have come to this.

The family said David Williams had lived with mental illness for a long time and that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, they said, after serving in the military in Iraq.

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