Chesley "CJ" Black Jr. acted like nothing was wrong when he showed up Friday at his sister-in-law's St. George home to drop off his 4-year-old daughter.
It wasn't until he left that the little girl revealed a terrible secret: Black had killed her mom during a violent argument inside their West Ashley home, authorities said.
What's more, Black kept the girl and her 2-year-old sister in the home overnight with their mother lying dead by the front door, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said Tuesday.
Cannon said Black fatally stabbed his 25-year-old wife Amanda in the neck with a knife Thursday evening, then hung around their Fife Lane home with the girls until around noon Friday.
He then drove to her sister's home, where he brushed aside questions about Amanda's whereabouts.
"He had said that his mom was in the hospital," said Beverlie Holcomb, Amanda's sister. "And when I asked where Amanda was, he told me she was tied up in the bathroom, and I thought maybe she was just going to the bathroom."
Black told them he was heading to Santee and would be back in about 45 minutes, Cannon said. He then vanished with his 2-year-old daughter, Khloe.
Holcomb's husband called police after 4-year-old Audri told them what happened, authorities said. Sheriff's deputies raced to the couple's home and crawled through a dog door to get inside. They found Amanda lying dead on the floor, her body partially inside a small bathroom, Cannon said.
A knife wound to her neck cut her carotid artery, shutting off blood flow to her brain, Chief Deputy Coroner Bobbi Jo O'Neal said. There also were small wounds indicating a struggle had occurred.
"I was the last to see him," Holcomb said. "He didn't have any remorse. I had to hear from a 4-year-old what her dad's done to (Amanda)."
Authorities issued an AMBER alert and spent several frantic hours hunting for Black and Khloe from Charleston to Sumter, where Black has relatives. Deputies from Dorchester and Sumter counties joined the search, and the State Law Enforcement Division had its SWAT team and helicopter at the ready should a stand-off occur.
They finally found the toddler safe with Black's mother in Sumter, Cannon said. Black was located around midnight Friday near a relative's house in Sumter County. He is charged with murder.
Family at hearing
Two dozen of Amanda's family members crammed into the Charleston County Bond Court on Tuesday morning to get their first look at Black since the killing. They insisted on standing where they could see the 29-year-old to let him know what has been done to their family.
"It's totally torn us up," said Joyce Gresh, Amanda's aunt. "All we can think about is how Amanda was in love with those girls and how she wanted for them to live a great life. She was an amazing mom."
The family didn't get the chance to speak. Magistrate Linda Lombard told the mop-haired, unshaven Black that she didn't have the authority to set bail on a murder charge, and dismissed him without any further comment.
"I wanted to be able to say so much to him; how he's robbed those precious little girls of a normal life," Gresh said. "These most precious little girls will get a normal life but not with their own mom. We'll give them the love they deserve just like we give our own children. They'll be our own children now."
An arrest affidavit released Tuesday said a witness told deputies that the couple were arguing and fighting inside the house at 2103 Fife Lane when he killed her. The document doesn't say what they were arguing about, and sheriff's Maj. Jim Brady said authorities had no information to release on a possible motive.
Holcomb said she suspected something was wrong Friday because Black didn't go to work at her family's company and she couldn't reach her sister. But she didn't envision this.
"It was like he was Jekyl and Hyde," Holcomb said. "I would have never seen this coming in a million years."
In October 2005, Black was accused of assaulting Amanda during a domestic dispute, according to court records. He was charged with criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature, a felony carrying up to 10 years in prison.
The charge was later reduced and sent to magistrate's court, where it was dropped in 2007 for lack of prosecution.
Black had been ordered to get anger-management counseling, but he didn't complete the classes, Cannon said. Because Amanda chose not to pursue the charge against Black, that requirement -- like the case itself -- went away, Cannon said.
Cannon and others said the case was another reminder of the grave dangers of domestic violence.
Amanda was a sweet girl who didn't know a stranger, said Don Gresh, Joyce Gresh's husband. She lost her father when she was 12 and was more like a daughter than a niece, he said.
Several hundred people attended her viewing Monday night, and just as many were expected at her funeral Tuesday.
Don Gresh said the family is angry and taking it hard, but they will move on and maybe one day forgive the man.
"At this particular point in time, you're going to get all sort of volatile responses," Don Gresh said. "I think as time passes, we're a good Christian group, we've got to figure out a way to forgive."