Coroner: Fugitive shooting suspect returns to scene, kills self

WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - The Charleston County Coroner's Office confirmed Wednesday morning that the body found in the attic of a Debbenshire Drive home was Ronald David Ratliff and that he died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the neck.

Charleston County Sheriff officials found Ratliff's body in the attic at 1834 Debbenshire Dr. Earlier Tuesday. Authorities set up a perimeter at the home after they say 40-year-old Ratliff shot his ex-wife, Melissity Hayes, at that location.

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.

The coroner said Wednesday that Ratliff died from a single gun-shot wound to the neck. Ratliff was found after authorities say he shot his ex-wife, Melissity Hayes. The Charleston County Sheriff's Office will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. to discuss the latest in the case.

According to Sheriff Al Cannon, a gun shot from a back window around 4 p.m. Tuesday struck Hayes, 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.

Sheriff officials say that the family had returned to the home shortly after noon on Tuesday after having stayed at hotels with police protection. Sheriff Al Cannon says that the family returned to the home because the family felt that it was time to come home. A deputy was with the family when they returned home.

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.

A neighbor of the victim, who says she was close to the family, said that Hayes was in the process of moving in with her daughter, Ratliff's ex-wife, at the address of the incident. Ratliff's ex-wife separated from him after the domestic violence assault a few months ago. Hayes is originally from Key West, Fla.

The victim's husband was home and identified Ratliff as the shooter. The ex-wife was not home at the time of the shooting.

Authorities say Ratliff was released from the Charleston County Detention Center on Tuesday. He was originally arrested for criminal domestic violence related to an incident on Debbenshire Drive back in September 2010.

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