Mom of 2 young children found fatally stabbed says she feels betrayed

Family of slain kids: Don't ignore the warning signs
FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina -- "I just know that I miss my babies and I need y'all to pray for me please..." Candice Smith Freeman said during a vigil Sunday night.

Candice's daughters, 2-year-old Serenity Freeman and 4-day-old Genesis Faith Freeman, were found stabbed multiple times near N.C. Highway 211 and Army Road in the Raeford area early Saturday morning. Their bodies were found in a car parked in a wooded area, according to Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin.

On Friday, the Fayetteville Police Department said the children's father, Tillman Freeman, was in custody and had refused to say where the children were. He was later charged with two counts of child abuse and child neglect. He's now also charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Tillman Freeman

Fayetteville Police Department

During Sunday's vigil, Candice was very emotional. Her family had to take her away from the event to calm her down.

The children's aunt, Marvina Smith, told ABC11 Saturday afternoon that Candice attempted suicide when she discovered her children had been murdered.

RELATED: 2 missing Fayetteville children found stabbed to death in Hoke County

After the vigil, Candice told ABC11 that she feels betrayed. She said she never thought her husband would be capable of killing their children.

"He was supposed to have loved me," she said. "He was supposed to have loved our kids. I trusted this man for four years."

"I feel an emptiness in my heart," Candice continued. "Like more than half of my heart is gone."

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Candice Smith Freeman, the mother of two girls found stabbed to death in Hoke County

Investigators say Tillman Freeman took the children in a fit of rage after accusing Candice of an affair and questioning if the girls were his.

Authorities said the girls were stabbed repeatedly by Freeman over the weekend, and left in the family's Toyota that was hidden in the woods.

Investigators found the car and large knife about 200 yards off a country road in Hoke County - 45 minutes away from their home where the search for them began.

"I trusted this man," she said. "I thought I knew him. And it makes me angry."

Candice said she endured a rocky four-year relationship filled with abuse and drug abuse to keep her family together.

"It felt like the more I prayed for him the worst he got," she said. "I will never love him again. I don't ever want to see him again."

A GoFundMe page has been started to help with funeral costs. Click here for more

Tillman Freeman, who is accused in the brutal stabbing deaths of his two young daughters, appeared in court Monday. The tragedy involving a toddler and a newborn has relatives of the victims agonizing about whether they could have done more to prevent the tragedy.

Some told ABC11 that they saw signs that something bad could happen.

Delores McFadden and her husband, Daniel McDougal, raised Candice Smith Freeman. Both say Candice's marriage to Tillman started off like a fairytale. Both were in love, and that Tillman was a great father to their two girls.

But about two years ago, Candice's grandmother noticed some changes and suspected her granddaughter was being abused.

"He choked her one time, put the knife to her throat, and then a gun to her back, and told her he was going to kill her. That was last week," McFadden said.
Just days later, Tillman would warn his wife after she gave birth to their second daughter that she would never see the children again.

Candice's grandparents say they wished they had stepped in sooner, but didn't think Candice would listen to their advice.

"I just wished I could've got them, you know," McDougal said. "All Candice had to do was come to us and let us know what was going on up there. She was scared."

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Candice Smith Freeman, the mother of two girls found stabbed to death in Hoke County

Iva Clark, a Domestic violence counselor, knows that fear firsthand after she escaped a violent relationship that nearly killed her and her unborn child.

"What most people don't seem to understand is, it's not necessarily always fear but it's love," Clark said. "And when you're in love with someone you can become blind to certain things."
As heartbroken as the family is, they're using this situation to encourage other women to get out, and seek help.

If you or someone you know is struggling to get out of an abusive relationship, there are resources available:

Cumberland County Domestic Abuse Crisis Hotline: (910) 677-2532
North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence
North Carolina Department of Justice help for domestic violence victims
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