Dale and Sandra Pitt will always remember May 17, 1988 as a special day, for it was the day their daughter, Aimee Lynn Pitt, was born.
And Dec. 30, 2010, will be a day the couple will never forget. It was the day Aimee Lynn Pitt died.
On Aimee's birthday last Thursday, the Pitts honored her memory and love for animals and they donated more than 500 pounds of Dog Food to Dog Days Inn Rescue.
Dog Days Inn Rescue is currently holding approximately 40 animals and feeding them has been a struggle for owner Teresa Summerlin. She said she prayed for help and her prayers were answered.
"It was just last week I prayed to the Lord to help me find a way to feed these dogs. Then they came and brought all of this food," she said while pointing to the bags of dog food. "They did it in celebration of Aimee's life."
During one of the most mysterious criminal investigations by the Tarboro Police Department in recent years, Pitt was found hanging in her closet after a second search of the home on Jan. 3, 2011 — 16 days after she was reported missing.
A medical examiner reported that the Aimee had died five days earlier. Although a person of interest was questioned about the incident, investigators have not found any evidence of foul play and the death was ruled a suicide.
Two birthdays have passed since Aimee's suspicious death and her parents have celebrated them by giving to one of their daughter's first loves — animals.
"Because Aimee is no longer with us, instead of buying her presents, we bought dog food," Sandra said sadly. "This is a way we can celebrate her life instead of mourning her death. We think that would have made her happy."
Aimee's love for animals began at an early age. She often brought home stray dogs that sometimes left her parents scratching their heads. An incident that happened when she was 9 may have been the tell-tell sign of her love for four-legged creatures.
"Around Mother's Day, she was staying at a friends house and she called me and said, 'I got you a present.' I didn't know what to expect. When I got there she gave me a cat. She said, 'I named her Susan, but you can name her what ever you like.' '"
Several years later, Aimee played veterinarian to a stray cat that had an eye injury from the result of a car accident. She nourished the cat to good health and named him "Uno."
Aimee's final show of love for animals came when she adopted a mixed lab from the county shelter. She named her Natalie.
Natalie was said to have been rescued from Aimee's house sometime after she went missing and was taken to Dog Days Inn Rescue. Summerlin was familiar with Natalie, as well as the Pitt family ordeal. She called Aimee's parents and told them she had Natalie. A short time afterward, Natalie went to live with Aimee's parents, giving them with a small fortune of fortitude.
"Natalie has a personality just like Aimee — she is loud and always wants to be the center of attention," Sandra said with a smile. "She is a part of our family now. She is the last part of Aimee we have left."
Natalie serves as a constant reminder to Aimee's parents that sometimes refreshes the question of what happened to their beloved daughter, whom they described as caring and loving.
"It is very hard because we don't have answers, but we have lots of questions," Sandra said.
The Tarboro Police Department is also waiting for answers. Evidence sent to the SBI lab for processing has not been returned. Lt. Keith Hale said the delay could be the result of homicides throughout the state possibly taking precedence over Aimee's case.
"Even when it comes back, we don't know if it will shed any more light on the case," Hale said.
More than likely, the results will be back by Amee's next birthday. No matter what they are, the Pitts will once again celebrate.
"Her birthday is still one of the most spirited days of my life," Sandra said. "She was my beauty queen."