CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The mother of a U.S. Navy E-3 who was killed by her husband Saturday just before he took his own life says the couple had a history of domestic violence, but even those closest to her daughter had little indication.
Candice Acampora says her daughter, the middle child of nine, was a quick study and on the rise in the Navy.
But her promising future would never be fulfilled because of a volatile marriage.
Aniece Gonzalez, 20, was shot and killed as she was driving her husband back from McDonald’s northbound on George Washington Highway near Canal Drive. Collin Smith-Aiken, 22, then shot at another vehicle and the driver survived minor injuries. As Chesapeake police closed in, Smith-Aiken turned the gun on himself and died a few hours later at the hospital.
Acampora got a knock on the door of her California home on Sunday morning.
“Just like in the movies, there were two gentlemen in uniform at the door with their hats on, and they pulled their hats down and I just fell to the floor, and I just knew at that point. [When they come to your house] it’s always bad news, and I lost it.”
“She hid it so very well,” said Acampora about her daughter’s troubled marriage that lasted less than 13 months. The couple met in Navy A-School in Pensacola, Florida.
Acampora found out about the danger surrounding her daughter just a few days before her death. Gonzales and Smith-Aiken shared a Portsmouth apartment with Aniece’s sister. Acampora says Aiken-Smith got angry with Gonzalez on Thanksgiving evening.
“He broke her phone and threw her around a little and broke the TV, and my husband’s first thing was, ‘Well, did you call the police?'” she said.
But Gonzalez did not contact police. Not then, and not in the past.
“She told me more details that he had pulled a gun on her before. On Friday, she sent me two pictures, one of which was back-dated in August, where he had given her a black eye. She was really good at makeup and I never noticed this,” she said.
Gonzalez kicked her husband out of the apartment with his belongings on Friday. Her parents convinced her to report the abuse to her commanding officer on the USS Kearsarge on Saturday evening. Later that night, Smith-Aiken called and said he was cold and hungry and wanted McDonald’s.
They had just bought the food and were returning to Portsmouth on George Washington Highway when Smith-Aiken turned from the passenger seat and shot his wife in the side of the head.
“She didn’t even see it coming because I know if she thought her life was in danger she wouldn’t have gotten in the car. She was still so trusting,” Acampora said.
Her mother says Gonzalez’s death was the culmination of a violent streak that simmered just below the surface. Acampora advises women in abusive relationships to trust their gut and speak out.
“You need to respect yourself, to love yourself and not be afraid to tell somebody.”
Aniece Gonzalez will be buried with military honors.