Deputies rushed to the scene, arriving, they said, only moments after Smith shot 27-year-old Amanda Peake, her 9-year-old son, Cameron, and 6-year-old daughter, Sarah, before turning the gun on himself.
"She was the greatest sister in the world," Josh Hartley said of Peake on Wednesday. "How could you ever do that to somebody?"
Just before the shootings, Smith was drunk, acting erratically and saying that if Peake "didn't tell him what he wanted to hear, then bad things were going to occur," Lexington County Sheriff James Metts said. After hearing Smith go into another room and load a gun, the friend left Smith's house and called 911.
Deputies found the children's bodies in the bedroom they shared, each shot once. Peake was in her bed, shot several times, Metts said. On the floor of the same room was Smith's body, with a Smith & Wesson .40-caliber automatic handgun lying nearby.
Deputies haven't determined whether there were previous reports of domestic violence involving the couple, though a friend said the relationship had become tumultuous.
Peake and Smith returned from a trip to Florida on Tuesday, and Smith began moving some of his belongings out of Peake's home, Metts said. Peake's best friend said the single mother was trying to get out of what she saw as a failing relationship.
"She was like, 'I'm done with him. I told him that I didn't want him anymore,' " Tiffany Jones, 21, said of a conversation she had with Peake about three hours before the shootings.