KNOXVILLE - An East Tennessee homicide got a national platform Friday on NBC's Dateline.
The 2011 murder of Brooke Morris was the focus of Friday’s episode. Morris was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend Shawn Smoot.
She was 23 at the time and a mother of a 3-year-old son.
Morris' mother and sister shared their story with Dateline, hoping the exposure will protect other women in the future.
"I hope it shows younger girls if you are mistreated in any way, you need to get out and stay out. It’s a huge problem. Domestic violence is a huge problem,” said Brooke’s mother Tina Gregg of the Dateline piece.
“She was so giving and so loving," said Gregg. “When she walked into a room it would light up. She was so special.”
The beautiful blonde with a kind heart, would take her last breath on a rural Roane County road.
“She was running for her life on that road, and he gunned her down like an animal and left her laying there,” said Gregg.
Her body was found by a passing driver.
"It was such a heartbreak the way she spent her last few minutes on this earth, you never get over that,” said Gregg.
The man found responsible was 40-year-old Shawn Smoot. Morris worked for him at his insurance company.
The pair had a relationship while he was married, but a breakup went badly and Morris got a no contact order of protection against him.
“He stalked her, followed her everywhere she went. She would go to restaurants with friends, and he would leave notes on her car, flowers on her car,” explained Gregg.
Investigators say his obsessive behavior and festering temper exploded on a 2011 October night.
Getting justice would take five years. The trial was repeatedly delayed as Smoot changed lawyers and disappeared while out on bond.
“Every time we got close he would fire his lawyer or he would quit and you have to start all over again," said Gregg.
In August 2016, a judge sentenced Shawn Smoot to life in prison without possibility of parole.
While he faces decades in jail, Gregg believes his experience there is far from unpleasant. Smoot is in a minimum security facility, and she's recently learned he helps train therapy dogs.
“It’s like camp for him, and that enrages me. I’m going to do everything in my power to get that changed,” said Gregg.
Today, she puts her energy into fighting for victims' rights. She's bonded with other Knoxville families who have suffered horrific tragedies.
“We're family, we are there for each other when we go to court, and we are there on each other's shoulders crying. We battle for the same things in Nashville,” said Gregg.
She also spends time with her grandson, a small reminder of Brooke.
“He looks like his mom, just like his mom, some of the things he does, his actions, his looks. It’s like she's never left me. It’s like she's right here,” said Gregg.
It’s a presence she clings to, never missing a chance to talk about her daughter and share her story.
Smoot has maintained he is innocent. At his sentencing last summer, his lawyers said they would be filing an appeal.
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