Family mourns, celebrates life of murdered Bear Creek man

Posted 5/29/20

When Emerson Batsche was murdered in Bear Creek last week, it left his mother, in her words, a “shell of a person.”

Emerson, 20, died from a gunshot wound to the chest early last Wednesday morning just off Pittsboro-Goldston Road.

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Family mourns, celebrates life of murdered Bear Creek man

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BEAR CREEK — When Emerson Batsche was murdered in Bear Creek last week, it left his mother, in her words, a “shell of a person.”

Emerson, 20, died from a gunshot wound to the chest early last Wednesday morning just off Pittsboro-Goldston Road. His assailant fled and is being sought by law enforcement, who have not commented about a possible motive for the shooting. The case is still under investigation by the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.

For Emerson’s mother, Andrea, “all the grace that could come from a terrible situation for her,” she said, is that he died “at home where he was loved.”

Andrea said Emerson, who grew up in Chatham County, had difficulty speaking when he was a young child. But he connected with a teacher at J.S. Waters School in Goldston who helped him overcome those issues. After working on his speech, Emerson soon began writing poetry and became interested in the spoken word form at a really young age.

“He used to carry around these ‘ginormous’ books, like a dictionary,” Andrea said. “I thought it was his way of having words because people couldn’t understand him. He would write these things that were really deep and profound and would make us weep.”

By the time Emerson moved on to Horton Middle School in Pittsboro, his creative spirit blossomed. He connected with his “best buddy,” Lara Summers, a fellow student there who played the ukulele, marking his transition from poetry to music. He also began performing a cappella, which his mom said “helped him develop his voice and discipline.”

But tragedy struck Emerson’s life. Within a two-year span, three of his friends — Zafer Estill, Boone Cummings and Lara — died in drug-related incidents. After these deaths, Andrea said, Emerson began to struggle.

“The grief was so intense,” Andrea said. “It set him on this course of self-destruction. But he managed to pull back from that. He managed to turn around and that strength is what needs to be looked at rather than his demise.”

Andrea said Emerson stopped spending time with large groups of friends at a time, the way he’d done when he was younger — instead hanging out with individual friends and focusing on making music.

“It had to be a richer experience than just being in a group,” his mother said. “It had to be more purposeful so the music was purposeful.”

He used that music to work through his feelings and the negative experiences in his life, Andrea said, and found a “new voice.” Emerson had been tested for several conditions and was suffering from “this weird heart thing,” Andrea said, which would cause him to pass out. But that eventually subsided and he received medical clearance to work. For the year leading up to his death, Emerson was happy and was looking forward to working with the American Conservation Experience, a program in Asheville that helps maintain and restore habitats along the Blue Ridge Parkway, this summer.

“He hit many hurdles with depression and drugs, but never gave up,” Andrea said. “He always went into the next treatment phase and continued to fight for his well-being.

“My blessing in all of this is that he was really happy and healthier than he had been in years. His [folksy-Americana style] music was so joyful this past year — joyful and good and rich. It was back porch music every day. It was really good and really soulful.”

Andrea said she wants people to remember Emerson’s kindness, how he helped out his friends and the stories friends have about him.

“He had such a beautiful soul,” Andrea said. “He was terribly funny and terribly talented as a musician. He’s going to leave a huge, huge hole here.”

In the days after his death, a GoFundMe page, organized by Laura Lauffer of Whittier, was created to support the Batsche family. In less than a week, more than $16,000 was donated through the page, much higher than the $5,000 goal. Community members who made donations left comments of support.

“This is a wonderful family!” wrote Sue Bird. “I have always enjoyed everyone! My heart bleeds for you. I also rejoice in the memories of Emerson.”

Devonte Sellars added, “Emerson was a beautiful soul who brought happiness to everyone he came across, including myself. He and his family have a special spot in my heart.”

Donations can be made at Arrangements for services have not been determined at this time.

Reporter Casey Mann can be reached at


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