Police: Man accused of killing a mom, holding 2 hostage in Gaston County

GASTONIA, N.C. — A man is accused of killing a mother and firing shots at police, all while holding two other people hostage. The Gaston County Police Department said it was part of a domestic incident early Wednesday morning.

The woman has since been identified as Erica Welch, a 32-year-old mother of five.

Welch was dating 51-year-old David Pace, who is a trusted family friend with a violent history. But witnesses told Channel 9′s Ken Lemon that trust is no longer there after he got angry Tuesday night and everything changed.

“I think he’s a monster,” Welch’s sister, Stephanie Welch, said crying. “I think he’s a monster. I trusted him.”

“We were supposed to be family and you take her from us,” she added.

She said her sister often visited the house on Chrisco Lane, where the man lives with his son and his son’s wife. Welch said Erica got a taste of the Pace’s bad side and was worried about the man’s son, Josh, who needs a wheelchair.

“‘I won’t leave Josh,’ those are her exact words,” Welch said. “‘I won’t leave him up there, I’m not going to.’ She said, ‘He will kill me, But I’m not going to leave him.’”

She said on Tuesday night, her sister called and texted cryptic messages that she didn’t realize were calls for help. She said in one call, Erica pretended there was a family emergency.

“She was trying to make him believe that somebody died so he would let her go,” Welch explained.

Then, the calls and texts stopped.

Mary Abernathy is the mother of the suspect’s son and lives next door to him. She told Lemon she heard her son and Erica shouting.

“She was just screaming, ‘Help me’ and I could hear my son screaming, ‘Stop! Stop!’” Abernathy said.

Police arrived just before 3 a.m. Wednesday. Abernathy said they didn’t know Pace coerced his hostages to pretend everything was fine.

Then, as police walked away, they said he shot Erica Welch, fired at the officers, and then swallowed a bottle of pills. The others inside got out, but the mother of five lost her life.

“I pray that they put you under and you never see the light of day again,” Welch said.

According to arrest records, Pace has been charged with murder, two counts of kidnapping, possession of a firearm by a felon, and assault by pointing a gun.

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