Lawsuit filed against sheriff's office in ex-husband double-shooting

Ronald Ratliff committed suicide immediately after shooting his ex-wife. (Source: CCDC)
Ronald Ratliff committed suicide immediately after shooting his ex-wife. (Source: CCDC)

WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - A West Ashley woman has filed a lawsuit against the Charleston County Sheriff's Office for failing to protect her family from her ex-husband, who fatally shot her mother-in-law, then shot her days later while hiding in her attic, just before committing suicide in early 2011.

The lawsuit, filed by Melissity Hayes, contends deputies failed to take the proper measures to ensure safety of her and her family after they obtained a restraining order against her husband, 40-year-old Ronald Ratliff.

On Jan.18, 2011, Ratliff was released from the Charleston County Detention Center after serving a 119-day sentence for assault and battery against Hayes, stemming from an incident the previous fall in which Ratliff threatened her with a butcher's knife.

Hayes had obtained a restraining order against Ratliff while he was in jail and her parents were so concerned, they traveled to Charleston to stay with Hayes, the lawsuit states.

On Jan. 22, Ratliff entered the Debbenshire Road home through an upstairs side door and walked into a room where Hayes' parents were watching television before shooting the mother, Linda Hayes, twice with a .38 caliber pistol. She died a short time later.

Ratliff also tried to kill the Hayes' father, but the gun jammed and he ran away.

Following that incident, the lawsuit alleges the sheriff's office undertook security detail as investigators came to believe Ratliff had gone to Florida. However, the lawsuit also alleges that in the three days following the shooting on Jan. 22, a neighbor reported to the sheriff's office seeing Ratliff's van in the neighborhood.

Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges deputies failed to thoroughly search the residence when they returned Melissity Hayes to Debbenshire Road, as they did not search the attic.

That day, Ratliff fired two shots from the attic, striking Hayes in the neck and lodging one bullet in her back where it remains today, the lawsuit states.

Ratliff committed suicide shortly after attempting to kill Hayes. When deputies searched the attic, the lawsuit states they found food wrappers, plates, cups, feces, and traces of urine, suggesting Ratliff had been hiding there for a "significant length of time."

According to the lawsuit, the sheriff's office should have known to search "every inch of the residence" and should have known that more than one deputy needed to be present at the home.

The lawsuit argues the sheriff's office "breached their duty to use reasonable care while providing protective services to [Hayes]."