EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) -- The boyfriend of a mother accused in the shooting deaths of two of her children last week said the Illinois woman bought the shotgun just hours before the killings and fired a test shot out of a window in the apartment they share.
Dexter Nicks told the Belleville News-Democrat that he feared any effort on his part to wrestle the firearm from Yokeia Smith could end deadly, so he left their East St. Louis apartment to go to a friend's house nearby.
Nicks, 23, said he learned a short time later that two of Smith's children -- her 5-year-old son LeVada Brown and 4-year-old daughter Yokela Smith -- were dead.
Smith, 25, was arrested later in St. Louis after police say she hit two pedestrians with her car near the Gateway Arch.
"Maybe I could've stopped her and maybe I couldn't," Nicks said of the shootings. "The whole thing is like a bad nightmare. I keep playing it over and over in my head. It's just not real to me."
St. Clair County prosecutors have charged Smith with two counts of first-degree murder in the Aug. 31 slayings. She remained jailed Wednesday in St. Louis, where she is charged with armed criminal action and first-degree assault in connection with the incident involving the pedestrians, whose injuries were not considered life-threatening.
It was not immediately clear when Smith would be returned to Illinois to face the murder counts, on which she has been ordered jailed without bond. Court records do not show whether she has an attorney.
Smith's 8-year-old son was at the apartment at the time of the shootings but was unharmed, authorities have said.
Nicks said Smith was bipolar, schizophrenic and fighting depression -- taking the appropriate prescribed medications -- but appeared "happy and laughing" the morning of the killings.
But that afternoon, the boyfriend said, Smith became withdrawn and her mood darkened by the time she picked up her sons from school and went shopping for a part for the children's video game console.
Nicks said Smith was driving so fast that she caught a police officer's attention at one point.
On the way home, Nicks said, Smith called someone and said she needed a gun because someone was trying to rob her. Nicks said he tried to discourage Smith but that she wouldn't listen to him and "kept smoking her cigarettes and staring off, like she was in another world or something."
The boyfriend said Smith eventually stopped the car, got out and walked up an alley. He said she returned about 20 minutes later toting a shotgun in a bag under her shoulder.
Smith put the gun in the back seat with her sons and started driving home, Nicks said.
Back at the apartment, he said, she loaded the gun in her bedroom in front of him and that he tried to hide the ammunition but couldn't. He said the children were in the living room playing video games.
He said he later heard a gunshot come from outside the apartment and went to investigate but saw nothing. He said Smith told him later that the shot came from her and that she had tested the gun by firing it out of a window.
Nicks said Smith had placed the shotgun in her closet by then and was sitting on her bed "rocking back and forth."
"She was not looking at me or responding to anything I was saying to her. I told her she was tripping," Nicks said.
When eventually leaving for his friend's house, Nicks said he didn't sense Smith's children were in any danger.