BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Family of the woman who was killed while working at a gas station in Battle Creek said they visited her just minutes before her death.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, police found the body of Nicole Gates, 27, inside the Citgo gas station on M-89 at Hussey Avenue.
Her suspected killer, Shawn Pike, was taken into custody. Another man is also behind bars in connection to her death. Police are not releasing his name.
Bree Caswell, the victim’s cousin, brought an arrangement of flowers out to the gas station Wednesday afternoon. She said she visited Gates at 11:30 p.m., just 30 minutes before Gates’ shift was scheduled to end.
“Nothing seemed out of the ordinary,” Caswell said. “We were just sitting there talking to her. We went to leave, and we went home and went to bed.”
Caswell said she went to work the following morning at Lakeview High School. While there, after police discovered Gate’s body, the school was placed on lockdown. That’s when Caswell said she got a call informing her that her cousin was killed.
Caswell said she met Pike for the first time on Sunday. She said he was quiet and kept to himself and added that she didn’t get the chance to get to know him. Now, she and the rest of Gates’ family and friends are left to wonder how, with only 30 minutes left in her shift, could the life of the mother of three come to an end.
Another person, a stranger to Gates who doesn’t want to be identified, told FOX 17 he also stopped into the gas station at about 9:30 that night. “I walk up to the counter, I ask to buy my cigarettes and stuff, she says, ‘I know you don’t know me or anything, but can you sit at this counter with me? There’s a car pulled up with a guy and two girls.'” He said Gates told him she’d been threatened throughout the day by the people inside that car. He also said Gates knew who one of them was.
“She said that it was her ex-boyfriend.”
He said he sat with Gates for about five minutes before she told him she was no longer worried.
When he left, he said, the man inside that car was glaring at him.
The next morning, he awoke to find Gates’ picture on the Internet with reports that she’d been killed. But, it wasn’t just Gates he recognized. Upon seeing Pike’s photograph he said, “That guy, that same dude, I recognized his face. He was just ‘grimming’ me down or whatever, because I was just standing at the counter for a while.”
Gate’s family, however, said she wasn’t dating Pike. Caswell said that when she arrived at the gas station the night of the murder, Gates mentioned to her that a previous ex-boyfriend, not Pike, had stopped in with his girlfriend. She said that Gates never mentioned anything about Pike being there.
FOX 17 also spoke with Gate’s best friend, Jennifer Hinton. She said she met Pike for the first time on Saturday.
“She had (Pike) with her and he seemed all right, hung out with us. They left, and then she dropped him off, and she met back up with us again,” Hinton said. “She was happy, fine, go lucky.”
That’s the last time Hinton saw Gates. She said she wishes she could’ve been there for her Tuesday night.
“I wish she would’ve called me. I would’ve went there and sat with her,” Hinton sobbed. “I don’t know why they were having her close that gas station by herself, especially being a female, and nobody else being there with her. I mean, I would’ve literally drove from Delton and sat with her so she wouldn’t have been there by herself.”
Family said they’ll be holding a candlelight vigil for Gates in front of the gas station on Sunday at 8 p.m.
A memorial fund is in place at the Green’s Tavern for Gate’s family and the three children she leaves behind.