Keeping faith despite tragedy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Nothing is harder for parents than to lose a child, and on Feb. 5, Mary Robinson learned that the hard way with her teenage daughter’s death.

On Feb. 5, Robinson’s oldest daughter, Candace Pearl Brogden, 17, died from a single gunshot wound to the head at the hands of her estranged boyfriend, Donnie Pettway Jr., 20.

After shooting her, he turned the gun on himself.

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In the days following the incident, Robinson said her faith in God, and the support of family and friends sustained her.

On Friday, she sat down for an interview The Greenville Advocate to talk about her daughter’s life.

Brogden, a senior at Georgiana High School had been seeing Pettway off and on for the last few years.

Some said she had recently returned to school at GHS after dropping out.

Robinson said that wasn’t the case.

&uot;She did stay in school,&uot; her mother said.

&uot;She had transferred to McKenzie School, but decided she wanted to return to Georgiana.&uot;

Robinson said her daughter was very smart and made good grades and planned to attend Reid State College in the fall to pursue a nursing degree.

Now, of those dreams, her mother only has a senior portrait showing a chubby cheeked girl with a wide smile.

&uot;Everyone who knew her, will always remember her easy smile,&uot; Robinson said.

&uot;She was a very good, loving daughter who loved her family and the Lord.&uot;

Robinson said her daughter had faith in God.

&uot;Witnesses said in her last moments she cried out to God and I know that she went to be with Him,&uot; she said.

&uot;I have peace in knowing that.

She knew right from wrong.&uot;

Robinson said the community support shown to her and her family continues to overwhelm her.

She said pastors, church members and many others continue to check in on them.

&uot;I am just amazed at the support we’ve had,&uot; she said.

&uot;Over 500 people signed the book at the funeral home.

The line lasted for four hours at the visitation.

It made me feel better knowing so many people cared.

Their prayers and love have held us up.&uot;

Robinson said her other daughter, Whitney, 12, continues to aid in her dealing with the tragedy.

&uot;Whitney looks so much like Candace and they have the same smile,&uot; Robinson said.

&uot;She told me that ‘we are going to be strong and go on because Candace would want us to be happy.’&uot;

Brogden was well liked by her co-workers as well, Robinson said.

&uot;She worked at Fred’s in Georgiana and customers always could expect an uplifting smile from Candace,&uot; Robinson said.

She said her last conversation with her daughter was full of love.

Robinson, who admits she lived a less-than-desirable life before turning to God, gives testimony at various churches, telling her story and of her redemption.

She said she had gone to Prattville on Feb. 4 to speak at a church, and that Candace called her before she left.

&uot;She told me how proud she was of what I was doing and how much she loved me,&uot; Robinson said.

&uot;That was the type of person she was in life.&uot;

As for her relationship with Pettway, Robinson said she knew that her daughter loved him and that he loved her.

&uot;She loved him and I believe he loved her,&uot; she said.

&uot;This was just a relationship that went terribly wrong.&uot;

She said Pettway followed Brogden’s cousin inside telling her &uot;to come outside and let me show you what true love really is.&uot;

&uot;That is when he went back outside and shot himself,&uot; she said.

Robinson said her daughter had moved into a house owned by Pettway’s parents and that the families got along.

She said more importantedly, they now support each in the tragedy’s aftermath.

&uot;The Pettways came to the funeral home for the visitation and also the funeral,&uot; Robinson said.

&uot;That meant so much to me.

I was able to go to Donnie’s visitation, but I couldn’t bring myself to attend the funeral.

I had enough of funerals.

They know I cared about their son and we know they cared about Candace.&uot;

Robinson repeated it was a relationship that went wrong and she said Candace should serve as a representative to other young women in a relationship that turns abusive.

&uot;I want young people to know that if there is abuse in a relationship that they need help,&uot; she said. &uot;I wish they would get some counseling, seek guidance from someone. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. I don’t want other parents to go through this.&uot;

Robinson showed several pictures of her daughter and with tears rimming her eyes, smiled back at her daughter’s smiling face, and repeated earlier declaration.

&uot;I know she is with God,&uot; she said.

&uot;That is all that matters.&uot;