Family speaks out after suspect arraigned in woman's death

BEDFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The parents of a woman murdered at a West Michigan gas station call her suspected killer a coward.

They were in court Thursday as 30-year-old Shawn Pike was charged with open murder and robbery in the stabbing death of Nicole Gates.

21-year-old Dustin Hartman was also charged Thursday with being an accessory after the crime.

Nicole's mother, Wendy Gates, says she couldn't even look up in court to see the man accused of killing her daughter.

Nicole's parents have many questions, including how dangerous it is for any store clerk to work alone at night.

"That's a big problem; you can't...these companies are letting these young girls close by themselves; no protection, and this happens, and what now?" asked Nicole's father Ronald Gates.

Now, the lives of Nicole's parents, along with those of her three children, will never be the same.

"They're going to live the rest of their lives with no mother; how do we explain that to a 5, 6, and 7 year old?" Wendy Gates asked.

Prosecutor David Gilbert called Nicole's murder a heinous crime.

Bond was denied for Pike, who is a third-time habitual offender with a past that includes attempted rape.

Police say Pike walked into the store just before midnight on Tuesday, as Nicole was getting ready to close up, and stabbed her to death during a robbery.

Tara Parker says she came to court, because she helped bring the two men to justice, by talking to the police.

She says she was with both Pike and Hartman just hours after Nicole's murder--even driving Nicole's car.

"After we got to the hotel, he asked me what it felt like to drive a person's car that he had just murdered," Parker said. "I was trying to tell myself, 'Well, maybe she's not dead,' and I was like, 'Well, how do you know?' and he was like, 'Because of what I used; like, I made sure she was dead before I left.'"

Parker adds that she saw Pike with the $100 he took from the gas station, and lotto tickets.

She said she wishes her friend Dustin would have turned him in.

"He had the bloody clothes that Shawn had on," Parker said.

In the meantime, the Gates family is setting up a fund to help Nicole's children.

"For her whole life, we warned her that one of these days, there was going to be a person that she shouldn't make friends with," Wendy Gates said. "Apparently, this was the person."

A memorial in front of the Citgo station gets larger by the hour, while the store has been back open all day Thursday.

A worker inside tells Newschannel 3 that it was difficult coming back to work.

We reached out to the General Manager, but have not heard back for a statement on the incident.

Nicole's parents are also inviting everyone to a vigil that will be held Sunday in her memory.

It will be held at the Citgo station at 8:00 p.m.