Growing up, Ash Smith was the fearless type, whether it was chasing after a 500-pound pig on the family farm or cutting his hair with a simple razor blade.
Born and raised in and around St. Louis, Missouri, Smith died on the streets of Portland, where she was fatally shot May 8 at the end of a festive drumming circle held in a parking lot near the Eastbank Plaza.
The mother of five was 31 when she died. She was one of 40 people killed in Portland homicides so far this year.
“She wasn’t afraid of anything,” said her mother, Jude Borske, who still lives in Missouri. “She couldn’t swim. But she would jump in the deep end and try anyway.
Police arrested Wyatt S. Belcher, 25, as he crossed the Hawthorne Bridge minutes after the late-night shooting. Officers found a Glock handgun in his belt, according to court records. He is being held in the downtown Multnomah County jail for second degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon.
Witnesses told police that Belcher shot Smith once in the back of the neck without warning, according to a probable cause affidavit. It is unclear if the two knew each other. It appears that Smith attended the regularly scheduled band drumming event, but it is unknown if Belcher was in the band.
Helaina Copeland remembers her older sister as an inventive spirit, someone who was happiest singing, dancing, writing, or painting.
“She was always trying to make everything a bit of a party,” Copeland said. “She could really see the bright side of almost everything. And even if she couldn’t, she could at least find the humor.
Copeland said Smith started treatment for mental health issues as a teenager and Copeland would bring him coloring books so Smith could stay creative while getting help.
This artistic side also showed in her personal style, their mother recalled, as Smith sometimes wore her hair in four pigtails and loved to curl her eyebrows and wear makeup. Borske hoped Smith, the eldest of four daughters, would become a beautician or stylist for the stars.
Instead, Borske said, Smith came forward to say someone was abusing her. She left home and moved to Portland, her mother said, where she battled drug addiction and mental health issues.
“That’s the only way some people can deal with some of this trauma in their life,” Borske, 47, said.
Smith voluntarily relinquished custody of her five children after realizing she was in the wrong place to care for them, her mother said. The children are now raised by other family members.
Borske and Copeland said they struggled to keep in touch with Smith, who was regularly without a phone or internet access. Borske was calling local shelters, fearful to learn that his daughter had died of a drug overdose one day.
Borske said she was comforted knowing she had made amends with her daughter before Smith died. She said she hurt her daughter deeply when she initially did not believe her abuse allegations.
“One of the last conversations we had was that I was asking her forgiveness for not believing her. And she actually thanked me for that,” Borske said. really wanted.”
The family set up a GoFundMe to pay for funeral costs.