BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Family and friends gathered Sunday at the gas station where a worker was murdered to remember her as a loving mother and loyal friend.
Nicole Gates was stabbed around midnight Wednesday at the Citgo on W. Michigan Avenue near Hussey Avenue, where she worked. The man accused of killing her was arrested Wednesday morning and charged Thursday with murder.
Gates leaves behind three children under the age of 7.
“I wake up every morning and I just want to think this is a dream,” her brother Ron Gates said.
Sunday evening, friends and family built a memorial to Gates on the grass in front of the gas station, with a photo collage, a cross bearing her name, candles, flowers and notes to remember her. Many wore purple, her favorite color, and some even dyed their hair.
Jennifer Hinton and Josie Strickland, who were at the vigil, said they were Gates’s best friends.
“I’m never going to heal from this,” Hinton said.
“This is something you learn to cope with. You don’t heal from this,” Strickland added.
Gates was remembered as loving and caring, and vigil attendees said she always tried to do what was right.
“Absolutely one of the most vibrant, beautiful human beings you ever met in you life,” Ron Gates said.
Family members and friends say they think Gates’s death could have been avoided if she wasn’t alone.
“Only cowards attack someone that’s by themself. If someone was there, that coward wouldn’t have come in,” Strickland said.
They want a law to be enacted that would require gas stations to staff two people at night.
“It’s senseless. Why? So the owner can save a few bucks, so he doesn’t have to pay another person for a few hours. This is what you get,” Ron Gates said.
Some family members said they plan to sit outside gas stations at night to make sure the young women working get home safely.
Gates’s family members say they haven’t heard from the gas station owners, who are on vacation.
Gates’ visitation is set for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Farley-Estes & Dowdle Funeral Home on Capital Avenue in Battle Creek. Funeral services are set for 3 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.
Memorial donations for Gates’s children’s education may be made online or to the family at the funeral home.