YADKIN COUNTY, N.C. — 17-year-old Norah Smitherman was a senior and straight-A student at Forbush High School. She had her whole life ahead of her.
Yadkin County sheriff's deputies found her shot to death at a home on Gospel Way Church Road on November 4.
Deputies said they initially responded to reports of an accidental shooting. Smitherman was found dead at the scene. Investigators have now charged a 17-year-old boy - also a Forbush High School student - with second-degree murder in her death.
Friends and family are now paying their respects to Smitherman. Signs line the fence at Forbush High School: Remembering Norah Rayne Smitherman.
"Everybody was close to her. She was close to everybody. Everybody was friends with her," classmate Derek Matthews said.
On Saturday, balloons floated into the sky before the Forbush football game to honor Smitherman. Many wore purple, her favorite color.
"A bunch of us grew up going to the Salem Elementary School, so it really hit hard for us, for a bunch. Because me, and him, and her, we all live within a mile-and-a-half of each other," Matthews said.
Yadkin County Schools' superintendent Todd Martin said Smitherman was a member of the National Honor Society and the student council. She also volunteered at church and with children. He also said in a statement, "more than that, she was a friend to so many, a wonderful person who was kind to all she met."
The 17-year-old boy charged in her death made his first court appearance Wednesday morning. He remains in juvenile custody until his next hearing, set for November 18.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is assisting the Yadkin County Sheriff's Office in the case. Investigators have remained tight-lipped about details in the case, and that's due in part because of the suspect's age. They also have not released his name.
Smitherman's celebration of life service is Thursday at 11 a.m. at Union Grove Baptist Church in Yadkinville.
Read the full statement from YCS Superintendent Todd Martin on the passing of Norah Smitherman:
"I can confirm that Norah Smitherman, a senior at Forbush High School, passed away Thursday, November 4th. Norah was a wonderful student with a tremendous work ethic. Norah took academics seriously and was a junior marshal, a member of the National Honor Society and the Beta Club. She was a straight-A student. Norah was also a member of HOSA and the Forbush High School Student Council.
Norah was very involved in her school and community. She volunteered with Impact Yadkin and with Collide Church, where she worked with Collide Kids, the Collide Student Group, and Guest Services. Norah especially loved working with the children at her church.
More than that, she was a friend to so many, a wonderful person who was kind to all she met. Many students and teachers have spoken to how kind she was to everyone.
This has deeply and profoundly impacted so many and there have been various tributes to honor Norah and all she meant to everyone who knew her. The home football playoff game, scheduled for this past Friday, was moved to Saturday evening. Prior to the game, there was a memorial service and a balloon release in Norah’s honor. Many attendees wore purple clothing and purple ribbons. Many of the balloons were purple because purple was Norah’s favorite color. There was also a memorial service in the football stadium Sunday night. Hundreds showed up to honor Norah. We are saddened by this tragic loss and we hold the Smitherman family, Norah’s friends, and all who knew Norah close in our hearts."
Yadkin County Schools released the following statement:
"Yadkin County Schools extends sincere condolences to the family of Norah Smitherman. Norah was a blessing and an inspiration to so many and losing her is devastating on many levels. We hold her family, her friends, and everyone in the Forbush High School community close to our hearts and send our prayers to the many families that have been impacted by this tragedy."