British Columbia

Northern B.C. city 'absolutely horrified' by young mom's homicide, mayor says

A man accused in the death of a young mother is scheduled to appear in court Monday in Fort St. John, as the northern B.C. community struggles with her loss.

Friends say Amanda Black was courageous and the type of person who 'stood up to bullies'

Friends remember Amanda Black as a wonderful mother to her young son. (Submitted by Kacey Salter)

A man accused in the death of a young mother is scheduled to appear in court Monday in Fort St. John, as the northern B.C. community struggles with her loss.

Amanda Black, 22, died inside a townhouse in Fort St. John on Feb. 8, according to RCMP.

"The community is absolutely horrified," said Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman, who burst into tears during an interview with CBC News.

"We've lost a young mum and a young boy has lost his mom," the mayor said.

Black's boyfriend Shane Sutherland is charged with second degree murder and remains in custody. 

Close friends remember Black as funny, outgoing and unique, a young woman who sported funky hair colours, lip piercings and a peace sign tattoo and was a dedicated mother to her one-year-old son. 

Black's friends remember her as happy and courageous, a woman who stood up to bullies. (Amanda Black/Faceboook)

"She was such an amazing mom to her little boy, and loved him with her full heart," said Black's longtime friend, McKayla Ingram. 

Friends also remember her courage.

'She stood up to bullies'

Kacey Salter, 22, said as a young teen, Black stepped in to protect her from an online bully and later went toe-to-toe with older teenage boys who harassed them on the street.

 "She stood up to bullies. She definitely wasn't scared of much," said Salter. 

Friends say Black loved music and had a beautiful voice. After she died, Salter discovered an old video of Black singing the country song, "If I die young." 

"It was very sad to see that,"said Salter, who remembers her friend as full of life and "almost always happy." 

Close friends remember Black as a strong woman who stood up to bullies. (Submitted by Kacey Salter)

Salter said she and Black cemented their friendship as young teens racing around in a shopping cart at Zellers. 

She had recently helped Black dye her hair bright pink and blue. 

The very last time she saw her friend, she says, they dropped Black's young son off at daycare, then laughed out loud as they shared smiley face cookies.

Salter has now adopted Black's cat, a tabby named Ash she believes may have been hurt the night her close friend died. 

Salter said Ash's eye was almost swollen shut and his nose was injured.

"I don't know what happened that night, but Ash definitely took some kind of hit to the face," she said.

Longtime friend Talus Skafte, remembers Black as extremely courageous.

"She stuck up for everyone. She had no problem putting her foot down. She was strong."

To mark what would have been Black's 23rd birthday, her friends and family released lanterns during vigils at Fort St. John's baseball fields and the beach on Gabriola Island. (Supplied by Kacey Salter)

Days after Black died, friends and family marked what would have been her 23rd birthday, by launching lanterns from a rocky beach on Gabriola Island where family members live and from a baseball diamond in Fort St. John.

Black honoured in Fort St. John

In Fort St. John, civic officials illuminated the recreation centre with purple lights, in honour of Black's favourite colour. 

"It's like we were lowering the flag for someone who lost their life," said Ackerman.

Fort St. John lit up its community centre in honor of Amanda Black. The city's mayor said it was a sign of respect, similar to lowering the flag. (Supplied by Fort St. John)

Amanda Trotter with the Fort St. John Women's Resource Centre, says Black's homicide has created a level of apprehension in the community.

"There are a lot of young women in our community asking, gosh, could this happen to me, too?"

In the small city of 20,000 people, Fort St. John RCMP respond to about 150 domestic violence calls each year, a number community leaders say is rising.