Juanita Whitacre had already gone to bed at her Bristol home shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, while many in the community were watching a tragedy unfold on TV and on the web. An “active shooter” was loose inside the Martin's Super Market at 3900 E. Bristol St. in Elkhart.
Whitacre remained asleep as the news trickled out. A gunman had fatally shot two people before police killed him.
“The police came to my house and knocked on my door, it was some time after like 1 o'clock in the morning, with two chaplains,” she said. “They asked me if I was Juanita Whitacre. I said, 'Yes.' They asked me if they could step in. I said, 'yes.' They came in and then they told me ... the news that nobody wants to hear.”
The shooter had shot and killed her 20-year-old daughter, Krystle Dikes.
Whitacre spent Thursday surrounded by her friends and loved ones at First Baptist Church on C.R. 17. She had been dodging media calls all day but sat down at the church with an Elkhart Truth reporter because she wanted the Elkhart community to know some things about her daughter.
“Krystle loved people,” said Whitacre, a realtor who also works part-time at a Walgreen's in Goshen. “She was very outgoing, and she was free-spirited and independent. She loved children. She took child care at the Career Center, and she was currently babysitting for some special needs kids in the area. She preferred special needs kids. She liked photography and art, music. She probably had thousands of friends that are kids, teenagers, and she reached out to kids that had a lot of problems. She didn't care. She was right there wanting to help them, no matter how bad their situation was.”
Whitacre said she and her daughter had been estranged during Krystle's teen years because she didn't want to follow her mother's rules. She had dropped out of Elkhart Central High School her senior year and moved out of the house when she was 18. But more recently, Krystle had started to want some stability and direction in her life. She had started the Martin's job about a month ago. On Wednesday, the two had lunch together at the store's Side Door Deli before going apartment hunting for Krystle. She had been staying with a friend and his parents at their home, which is located within walking distance of the store.
“She had talked to me about wanting to start a day care someday. That was kind of a dream of hers. She also loved art and photography. We had talked about her plans to go back to school. We talked about it just yesterday. She wasn't ready yet.”