For Midway resident Kris Elliott, the number 25 will always be a somber reminder of tragedy.
“Every 25th of the month is another reminder,” she said. “You figure every Thanksgiving, every Christmas is another month, and there’s nothing that’s going to change that date. That’s a bad day.”
Elliott’s sister, Lori Arrowood died last year on Sept. 25, two months to the day before she would have turned 43.
Arrowood’s disappearance from her rented home on John Wells Road and news of her death shook the community, and its effect on her daughters, Brianna Overbaugh and Jessica Hardy; husband, Sgt. Nathon Arrowood; and sister, Elliott, still runs deep.
Arrowood’s husband was deployed to Iraq with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment when his wife was killed. The Army brought him back the same week.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Arrowood said about the year since his wife’s slaying. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. It brought on a lot of emotions I never thought I could feel.”
Elliott said the year has been filled with “a lot of crying” for her and her nieces.
Through intermittent sobs, she recently recalled spending time with her sister, from family gatherings at birthdays to one special trip to Disney with Overbaugh and Hardy.
“She had a smile that would calm you,” she said. “And her girls meant the world to her.”
Arrowood loved animals, horseback riding and four-wheeling and was “full of life,” she added.
“She was supposed to teach me how to ride (horses), and now I’ll never have the chance,” she said.
Since Arrowood’s death, Hardy, 18, has withdrawn from classes and moved in with Elliott and her family, and together they have taken over caring for Arrowood’s horse, Hannah, and Hardy’s horse, Whiskey.
Elliott has been trying to clear about an acre of land for the horses on her 14-acre tract, but even highly recommended companies have failed to make good on their promises to complete the labor, she said.
She and her husband slowly have been clearing the land by hand, and the horses only have until the end of October before their current boarding situation ends, Elliott said.
“Getting rid of them is not an option,” she added. “That’s Jessica’s bond with her mom — riding was what they did together.”
Overbaugh lives with her father in Massachusetts and is attending school, Elliott said.
Overbaugh and Hardy both declined comment, saying they’re not ready to speak about the topic, Elliott said.
Next month, Nathon Arrowood will move to Fort Lewis, Wash., and looks forward to being closer to his family and friends in Oregon, where he originally is from.
“I live my life the way that I feel she would want me to,” he said. “I know she would want me to move on and be happy and not wallow in self-pity.”
Arrowood has tried to date again and even had a relationship that lasted about six months, but the anger and frustration he carries with him are obstacles that hamper his social life, he said.
“Things get hard sometimes,” he said. “You could imagine how it’s really hard to deal with someone who’s happy one minute and mad at the world the next minute.
“It’s one of those things where you just put up a wall,” he said. “It’s really hard for me to trust pretty much anyone now. I look at people a lot differently.”
According to previous reports, Hardy left the Arrowoods’ home for work around noon Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 — and that was the last time she saw her mother.
By Sunday night, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office had opened a missing persons case, and more than 100 soldiers from Fort Stewart joined in community search efforts to find Lori Arrowood the following Monday and half of Tuesday, Elliott said.
After hours of questioning on Sept. 28, officials arrested Kenneth Lumpkin, a corrections officer at the Liberty County Jail, in connection with the crime. Arrowood’s body was found on a trail off Tower Road in Long County the next day.
Lumpkin, a longtime friend of Arrowood’s, had been at the home doing repair work for her the day she disappeared, Elliott and Arrowood said.
Lumpkin was denied bond and has been in custody since. He faces one count of malice murder, one count of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault and one count of kidnapping with bodily injury.
Representatives from the Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office have said the case likely will go to trial sometime after next May, Elliott said. DA Tom Durden did not return the Courier’s calls by press time.
“It’s a long time to put your life on hold,” Elliott said, adding that she and the girls are unsure how they’re going to prepare emotionally for seeing the evidence in court.
Officials at the time did not release Arrowood’s cause of death, and Elliott declined to speak about the details, citing a desire to preserve her sister’s memory in a more positive way.
“Even though Lori is gone, she hasn’t been forgotten,” Elliott said. “Her memory lives on through her children, through her animals and me. We know she’s in heaven watching over us.”