Sometime after 1 p.m. Thursday, 150 bright balloons will rise slowly into the sky above Hickory Tavern Church of God as a grieving family releases the spirit of a spunky, creative 12-year-old girl whose life was cut short by a Colt .380.
Hope Alexandria Fair, a seventh-grader at Hickory Tavern Middle School, described by her family as “joyful and a happy girl,” will be laid to rest.
A 15-year-old boy, who police say was loading a magazine into the handgun when it went off and killed her, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
The Fair family gathered at Fletcher Funeral Services in Fountain Inn on Tuesday to make arrangements, struggling to come to terms with the loss.
“She was such a blessing,” said her grandmother, Barbara Fair.
Even while they mourn for Hope, the family is sympathetic with what the boy who is charged with her death is going through. They said they are convinced that an accident caused the death at a home on Hanging Tree Road in the Fountain Inn area.
“Last night on Facebook I asked everyone to pray for the boy,” Hope’s grandmother said.
The boy’s family came to see Hope’s family Monday night, one day after the death, she said. “We just hugged them,” she said.
Lt. J.D. Shelton of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office said a boy called 911 after Hope was shot and said he had heard a gunshot nearby and went to the house where he saw the girl had been shot.
The boy is in the custody of the state Department of Juvenile Justice and isn’t being charged as an adult, Shelton said.
Hope’s mother, Michelle Fair, said her daughter had gotten permission from her grandfather to spend the night with another girl but ended up at the home where she was shot.
She died in the arms of the grandfather of the girl she was visiting, her grandmother said.
“She would squeeze his hand. And she took some deep breaths and she was gone,” she said.
Hope grew up in a yellow house on a wooded lot in a rural area just across the Laurens County line from Greenville. The property is scattered with evidence of the family business — home building.
A garage house and two other houses where relatives live are near the yellow house.
A boxer named Sarah keeps watch over the compound. Hope used to take the dog’s ears up in pony tails when she was about 4, said her mother.
“She’s just very outgoing, outspoken, joyful and a happy girl,” she said. “She was beautiful ... She’d make friends with everybody.”
She added, “I don’t think she was the perfect teen. She was Hope. She didn’t have to be perfect for us.”
Hope wanted to be a photographer when she grew up and had gotten plenty of practice recently, her mother said.
“She just got a camera for Christmas, and I think it’s packed full of pictures already,” she said.
That was the No. 1 item on her wish list for Christmas, she said.
“She said she got everything she wanted. And if she didn’t that was fine.”
Hope liked to draw. And she loved music.
“She would come home from school and get on the computer and turn her favorite music on and sing her heart out,” her grandmother said. “She had such a beautiful voice.”
Sleeping with Sirens, Mayday Parade and Eminem were among her favorites, said her sister, Breanna, 18.
“I’d come home and the music would be blasting,” she said.
Hope liked to cut her own hair and do different things with it.
“Sometimes it would be highlighted. Sometimes it would have pink in it,” her mother said.
On Sunday, the day she died, Hope had painted her face, “like she was a cat,” her mom said.
She also painted polka dots all over her 3-year-old brother’s face, “and he smeared it all over his face,” she said.
And then, she was off to visit a friend, and her short life was over.