A man whose wife was shot to death in West Ashley had a message Monday for the man accused of killing her: Turn yourself in before you get shot by police.
Richard Hayes and his wife, Linda, were lying in bed watching TV at their daughter's Debbenshire Drive home shortly after 6:30 p.m. Saturday when their estranged son-in-law appeared at the foot of the bed with a gun, according to an incident report released Monday.
Ronald David Ratliff pointed the black handgun at the couple and fired twice, Richard Hayes told deputies. Hayes heard his wife cry out, "Oh, honey," as he rolled off the bed. He looked up and saw Ratliff fumbling with the gun, which apparently had jammed, the report said.
Linda K. Hayes, 65, died from two gunshot wounds to her side. Deputies are searching for Ratliff, who is 41.
At a news conference Monday at the Charleston County Sheriff's Office, Hayes urged his son-in-law, whom he called David Ratliff, to surrender.
"I met with my lord and savior last night," Hayes said, "and I have total peace that he gave me. ... I just want you to know that you can walk in and you'll be safe. I know that you're going through a difficult time. I understand it. I have no hatred for you."
Hayes said Ratliff is hurting a lot of people by not surrendering and that he should turn himself in so he could get right with God.
"And we don't want you to be shot," Hayes said. "If that's what you choose, you'll be in hell. But if you come in, there's still a chance for you to get yourself forgiven and go to heaven no matter what happens to you."
Hayes, who is 66, and his wife had come up from their home in Florida to visit their daughter and attend a birthday party, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said.
The slaying took place within days after Ratliff was released from the Charleston County jail after having entered a guilty plea to assault charges stemming from a Sept. 20 attack on his estranged wife, Melissity Hayes, 40, the couple's daughter.
Melissity Hayes told deputies on Sept. 20 that she and Ratliff had a common-law marriage but were sleeping in separate rooms because he had been violent toward her in the past.
She said Ratliff broke into her bedroom about 10:50 p.m. and attempted to climb on top of her, the report said. Ratliff was upset with her for talking to a divorce attorney, she told deputies.
The couple's two children, a 21-year-old son and a 23-year-old daughter, helped break up the assault after the son heard his mother begging his father to "please stop," according to the incident report. They left the house with their mother and later called 911. Deputies found Ratliff inside with a paring knife.
He told deputies he intended to use the knife but put it down when he knew they were coming, the report said.
Ratliff was arrested and taken to jail, charged with criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. A family court judge signed an order of protection in September that barred Ratliff from returning to the house on Debbenshire Road, which was the marital home, Cannon said.
In a plea bargain arrangement, Ratliff pleaded guilty Jan. 18 to a lesser charge of second-degree assault and battery. Circuit Judge Thomas L. Hughston Jr. sentenced Ratliff to three years in prison, suspending all but the 119 days Ratliff had spent in jail awaiting trial, with the condition that he be on probation for one year.
The plea bargain was not unusual, and it was approved by the victim, said 9th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Jessica Baldwin. "It was based on a lack of violence in his history," she said. "There was a discussion that he had a substance abuse problem and one of the conditions of his probation was that he receive treatment."
Authorities notified the victim when Ratliff was released, Baldwin said. "Victim notification is automatic," she said.
According to a State Law Enforcement Division records check, Ratliff has previous convictions for simple assault in 1991 and criminal conspiracy in 2002.
From the time he got out of jail Jan. 18 until the shooting Saturday, Ratliff was staying at the Econo Lodge on Savannah Highway, the sheriff said.
Investigators think Ratliff may have headed to Pensacola, Fla., where he has family. He was driving a white 2004 Ford Econoline van with S.C. license plate EPP 250. The van had a Dallas Cowboys license tag in the front and may have Dallas Cowboys window stickers. The van also had ladder racks on top, Cannon said.
Ratliff is described as a white man, 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 210 pounds, with scars on his neck and tattoos on his back, shoulders and upper right arm.
Cannon said Ratliff may be carrying a small-caliber handgun.