Friends and family of Silverdale's missing mom seek closure

Although Shantina "Kat" Smiley's loved ones may never know what happened to her, they met Saturday to remember the Silverdale woman, known for being a confidant and an "inspiration to everyone."

"In my heart I know she's gone," said Dolly Smith, Smiley's grandmother, a member of Brinnon Community Church, where the memorial was held. "There's no way she'd let her little boy out in the water and not go after him."

Smiley, 29, and her 8-year-old son Azriel Carver went missing March 13 while en route to Castle Rock to visit a relative. The van she was driving was found partially submerged in the Puget Sound outside Olympia, with no clues as to where they were.

Carver's body washed ashore on Fox Island five days later. The Pierce County Medical Examiner ruled his death as an accidental drowning.

Although Smiley hasn't been found, detectives and the family believe that she, too, drowned. Saturday's memorial service was meant to give Smiley's loved ones a chance to grieve together.

"This is a hard day," said Robb Simmons, Smiley's fiance. "It's not knowing and having to find a way to have closure."

Simmons and Smiley lived together at Simmons' Island Lake house and had plans to be married later this year.

"We had a plan we laid out, a pretty good plan for the rest of our lives," he said. As much as he can, Simmons said he intends to follow through with that plan.

Smiley moved in with her grandmother in Castle Rock in 1988 to escape a trouble relationship with her mother. Smiley eventually returned home to her mother in Portland, but came back again as a senior in high school. Smiley's mother committed suicide in 2005.

Having raised Smiley during those years, Smith said the two were close.

"She was more like a daughter than a granddaughter to me," Smith said.

Smiley not only had second chances, but offered them to others, Simmons said, noting he was ready to give up dating when he met Smiley online.

"I kind of threw my towel on the rack."

When Smiley sent Simmons a message on MySpace, he said he almost deleted it thinking it was spam. He said he decided against instinct and wrote back with little hope of reaching a real person. That conversation in October 2008 sparked their future relationship.

He said he remembered waiting until his two kids, Nicole, 15, and DJ, 11, went to bed each night before calling Smiley and talking with her "until the wee hours of the morning."

"I had butterflies in the stomach," he said.

The two hardly argued, he said.

"The worst was she threw a sock at me."

Simmons said he and Smiley talked about their troubled pasts, and agreed to put it all behind them in order to start a new family.

"Together, we were a great, dynamic team," he said.

Simmons' daughter, Nicole Simmons, said she needed the opportunity for closure, but still has hope Smiley might return one day. She said Smiley promised to be with Nicole through every phase of her life.

"I hope she comes back to us to see those things she promised," she said.

Nicole, who had problems with her own mother, recalled a restless night when she and Smiley sat outside and opened up to each other about their struggles.

"To her, I was an equal," she said.

Friends of Smiley remembered her dedication as a den mother. Smiley got involved with Cub Scouts after her son Azriel joined more than a year ago.

Kenneth Brown, of Seabeck, said Smiley was at all Cub Scout events, including week-long camping trips where she watched over 14 scouts. Brown's son, Evan Brown, was in Smiley's den and knew Azriel.

"She always had a word of encouragement," Kenneth Brown said.

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