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Evan Gaines should be walking across the stage at University of South Carolina Upstate to collect his degree.
Gaines should be excited and nervous for his upcoming internship in New York with a pharmaceutical company. His mother should be in the audience, tearing up with joy at their son graduating college.
But instead, his mother, Ericka Holmes Carter, will walk across that stage Tuesday, May 7, along with her husband and Gaines’ sister, Erra Roundtree, to collect his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree.
“He said ‘Mom, I’m about to graduate. I’m so happy,’” Carter remembers him saying a few days before he was killed. “He was such a sweet boy. I’ll miss him so much.”
Gaines’ family will also be presented with a graduation card signed by around 100 students and a ceremonial graduation sash called a “stole” signed by roughly 30 USC Upstate faculty members, said Kim Land, a marketing instructor at USC Upstate who had Gaines in four classes.
“He was very charismatic,” Land said. “He could sell ice to an Eskimo.”
That wasn’t the only honor made in Gaines’ memory. Nephron Pharmaceuticals owner Lou Kennedy also made a donation for an undisclosed amount to USC Upstate foundation, Kennedy confirmed.
Gaines also had a sense of humor. When Land held a “Disney Day” for marketing class, Gaines showed up 15 minutes late “just to make an entrance” wearing a full Stormtrooper costume, Land said.
When Land told him he didn’t need to go through the effort to buy a full costume, Gaines replied, “I need the extra credit,” Land recalls him saying.
That was just one example of how Gaines used his personality and his “ infectious” smile to lighten the mood, Land said.
“He touched so many lives,” Carter said. “I had no idea how many lives he touched until he passed.”
Six weeks after Gaines’ death, police have released few details. Police have said he was found at an off-campus apartment complex dead of a single gunshot wound, and are investigating Gaines’ death as a homicide.
Police have leads in the investigation, which is still active, but are keeping those details secret for now, Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Lt. Kevin Bobo said in an email Monday.
“He loved God. He’s in heaven, I know that,” Carter said of her son, who was in the youth choir at Central Baptist Church in Columbia. “His wings were ready, but my heart wasn’t ready to let him go.”
USC Upstate will also award a degree to Jordane Bouchillon, a USC Upstate senior who was killed in a car accident last fall, according to a previous article from The State.