CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said that murder suspect Ronald David Ratliff hid in attic insulation before killing himself at a home in West Ashley Wednesday night.
Authorities report that before Ratliff died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the neck, he came to the home at 1834 Debbenshire Dr. around 4 pm and shot his ex-wife, Melissity Hayes, through the house's back window.
SWAT team members found Ratliff's body after digging through insulation in the attic. The sheriff says they did not find any forced entry into the home and is possible that Ratliff had a key. Authorities say that Ratliff was found with granola bars, drinks, a pillow and a .380 caliber handgun.
Melissity Hayes and her family had been in protective custody at a motel but decided to return to the home that afternoon with a detective escort.
Sheriff Al Cannon says that they will agonize over whether or not to have had someone watch the home while the family was in protective custody. The sheriff did say that three detectives had entered the home and searched the entire house including the attic before the Hayes family was allowed in the Debbenshire Drive home Wednesday afternoon.
According to investigators, the home was not under surveillance while the family was under protective custody at a motel.
The shooting happened at the site of a weekend murder, in which authorities say Ratliff shot and killed his ex-mother-in-law, Linda Hayes. Authorities have been looking for Ratliff since Saturday.
According to Sheriff Al Cannon, at some point, Ratliff went inside the house up to the attic and then placed himself in an area above the kitchen ceiling. Around 4 pm, Melissity Hayes was in the kitchen and Ratliff shot her through a vent in the ceiling. Earlier reports by witnesses say that they had thought that the shots came from outside.
After Hayes was shot, the detective assigned to the family ran into the home and cleared the home of the eight to 10 people inside.
"Shortly after 4, at the residence, the subject appeared back at the house. The family was there and he shot a couple of times and one struck the wife in the throat area," Cannon said.
Hayes was then transported to the hospital. Meanwhile, the detective and police officers entered the home and found blood coming down from a vent near the attic. At that point authorities left the home and a perimeter was set.
After putting gas to the house around 7 p.m., S.W.A.T teams entered the residence and found the body.
Also on Tuesday afternoon, authorities stormed a van on Sol Legare Road on James Island that was said to be driven by Ratliff. Charleston County Sheriff's deputies and members of the S.W.A.T team were on scene at 2009 Sol Legare Road and Ratliff was believed to be in the area.
Authorities did not find Ratliff, but K-9's searched the area. It appeared that Ratliff may have returned to the home while authorities were searching his van on James Island. Authorities were then seen leaving the James Island scene in a hurry to speed towards the Debbenshire Drive home.
Authorities have been searching for Ratliff since Saturday who was last seen driving a white 2000 model Ford Van. According to authorities, Ratliff shot his 65-year-old ex-mother-in-law who was visiting from out of town.
The incident happened around 6:40 p.m. on Saturday on Debbenshire Drive in West Ashley. The victim, Linda Hayes, was transported to MUSC, but later died as a result of her wounds.
The Charleston County Coroner's Office says Hayes died of two gunshot wounds to the right side of her body. She was pronounced dead at 7:30 p.m. at MUSC. Neighbors said Hayes was in town visiting her daughter from Florida.
Authorities said they believe Ratliff's ex-wife, Melissity Hayes, may have been the intended target in Saturday night's shooting.