Like most freshmen, Nashid Fulcher was nervous on her first day at Boston University. She’d yet to meet her roommate in person and feared the two wouldn’t get along. So when she finished arranging her side of the room, she put on the “Hamilton” soundtrack and waited anxiously.
Soon after, Erin Edwards burst into the room belting “Angelica!” in sync with the musical’s “The Schuyler Sisters” song. Fulcher shouted back “Eliza! And Peggy,” the subsequent lyrics. Edwards then wrapped her new roommate in a giant hug, easing all of Fulcher’s first day anxieties.
Erin Edwards had this effect on people. According to classmates, the 20-year-old journalism student emanated an infectious warmth and could make strangers feel like family.
Those friends, classmates, and family members were left reeling after Edwards was found dead Wednesday night, alongside her mother and brother in an apparent murder-suicide in her home in an Atlanta suburb. Investigators suspect Marsha Edwards shot her children before turning the gun on herself, police said in a Thursday statement.
The Cobb County Police Department responded to a welfare check at the home just before 6 p.m. and discovered Erin Edwards, her 24-year-old brother, Chris, and their 58-year-old mother dead by gunshot wound.
The news of the killings stunned the BU and Atlanta communities as they tried to piece together how such a seemingly idyllic family could be shattered by such tragedy.
Erin Edwards had planned to return to BU Monday for the start of her junior year, after a summer spent churning out stories as a journalism intern in New York City.
Just two days before the shooting, Marsha Edwards had posted a number of photos from her adventures with her daughter in Italy, taking a boat on Lake Como and visiting the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. One picture was accompanied by the caption: “I’ve had the best summer, first with Chris in Miami, and Erin in Italy. I could not ask for better children.”
“Erin and her mom were best friends,” said friend and BU classmate Sofia Colombo-Abdullah. “We don’t understand what happened, but Erin loved her mom and her whole family.”
A month into a sociology course, Erin Edwards casually asked her new classmate, Colombo-Abdullah, to join her and friends in Florida for spring break. Stunned and flattered, Colombo-Abdullah accepted, and the two became fast friends.
“She was really going places because she was a genuine person. She would ask how you were. And everybody always responds, ‘Fine.’ And she would say, ‘OK. But how are you really doing?’ ” said Colombo-Abdullah.
BU journalism professor John Baynard taught Edwards in a course on online journalism last spring . When he heard about her death, he remembered how she would always sit in the front row — “one seat from the left” — and had a maturity that belied her years.
“She was a joy in the classroom. The kind of student you always wanted to have,” Baynard said. “Curious and interested in so many things, both educationally and in the world. Her potential seemed limitless.”
In her last assignment for the course, Edwards married her love of pop culture with her dedication to social justice issues in a project on the healing powers of protest music.
Edwards had a soft spot for a good song. After their introductory duet, she and Fulcher would blast “Hamilton” and R&B music well into the night. If Missy Elliot’s mid-2000s hit “Lose Control” started playing, Edwards would drop what she was doing and start dancing with abandon regardless of the venue, Fulcher said.
But her main passion was found in social justice and journalism.
Edwards was a Posse scholar, a distinction given to a “small, diverse group of talented students” by the nonprofit Posse Foundation. Those selected for the honor are trained to “serve as a catalyst for individual and community development,” according to the foundation’s website.
She was also editor-in-chief of the university’s Charcoal Magazine, a literary arts magazine dedicated to artists of color. She had also been selected as an ambassador for the Thurman Center for Common Ground, which brings together people of all backgrounds on campus.
In her application for the ambassadorship, published Thursday in BU Today, Edwards described her philosophy of life.
“We’re all human and endure the human experience together. We all know tragedy and struggle, but we also all have certain privileges,’’ she wrote. “Some of us just have different struggles and privileges that we have to recognize and understand so we can all support each other through this journey of life.”
Most recently, Edwards completed a summer internship at NBC New York, where she bylined more than two dozen stories for the local station. Her last story featured a photographer who shed light on the overlooked senior citizens of New York City.
“When she wasn’t doing journalism, it’s like she was searching for more things to write about when she got back to her journalism,” said Fulcher. “It was her lifeblood. She was passionate about raising the voices of marginalized people and amplifying them so no one could ignore them.”
Chris Edwards Sr., Marsha’s ex-husband and the father of Chris and Erin, is a prominent orthopedic surgeon and the chairman of Atlanta’s housing authority. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms mourned the loss of the “three members of the beloved Edwards family” on social media Thursday, calling Chris and Erin “beautiful, vibrant and brilliant young adults, whom I had the pleasure of knowing their entire lives.”
Like his sister, Chris Edwards Jr. had an affinity for media and worked as a digital content manager for the City of Atlanta.
Marsha Edwards received a medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport and owned MME Enterprises LLC, a supplier of surgical and medical equipment, according to her LinkedIn page. She and her children were members of the National Association of Black Journalists.
Police in Atlanta are still investigating the deaths. They asked that anyone with information about the shooting to contact Cobb County police at 770-499-3945.