MONCKS CORNER -- Just days before former SLED agent Charlie Boyette killed his former lover and himself, the terrified woman told investigators he had held her hostage at gunpoint for hours and sexually assaulted her inside her Pinopolis home.

Mary Ann Cox told officers that Boyette came to her apartment armed and uninvited on July 16, demanding that they get drunk together. He raged. He cried. He begged. He jammed a pistol into her belly and later aimed the gun at his chest and pulled the trigger.

It didn't fire, she told authorities.

In a written statement to Berkeley County sheriff's deputies, Cox said she pleaded with Boyette to let her go. He refused, she said, telling her, "This is going to be a (expletive) Romeo and Juliet."

"He said we both were going to die today," she stated. "I kept telling him no, he did not want to do that. He kept saying yes he did and that there was 'no going back' "

Cox, 45, said she eventually managed to calm down Boyette that day, and the two went their separate ways. She told her story to Berkeley County sheriff's deputies two days later, but insisted that she didn't want to go forward with charges of kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct against Boyette.

"I just want him to stay away from me," she wrote in a statement. "I do not want to see him ever again."

That was not to be.

On July 22, the 61-year-old agent showed up outside the bank in Moncks Corner where Cox worked as a teller and shot her three times -- twice in the arm and wrist and once in the back. He then turned the gun on himself and fired into his chest. The pair died within feet of each other.

Questions surrounding the killing have swirled through this small town in recent days. And Boyette's stunned colleagues at the State Law Enforcement Division are left to wonder just how things could have gone so wrong for a trusted, veteran agent with an unblemished record over 37 years in law enforcement.

Cox's statement paints Lt. Charlie Boyette as a dangerously unhinged man who was unraveling by the day. But others knew him as an outgoing Vietnam veteran who had served as the state's homeland security coordinator and as operations section chief for Project Seahawk, an innovative port security program.

Commendation letters describe how he personally helped build a relationship with the FBI. Records describe him as "stable and reliable."

"I was absolutely shocked," SLED Chief Mark Keel said this week. "I could not believe it. Trust me."

Extremely unhappy

Boyette and Cox were both married to other people, though Cox, according to her statement, had left her husband in late October. She and Boyette began their affair in May 2010 and continued seeing each other until Cox decided to pull the plug on their relationship on July 4, reports state.

Cox, a mother of two, told deputies that Boyette refused to accept her decision and continued to call and send her text messages, pleading for a meeting. By this time, Cox already had fallen for another man and had no interest in rekindling her romance with Boyette, her statement said.

On the morning of July 14, Cox said, she went to take her puppy for a walk and found Boyette lying on the porch of her Pinopolis Road home. He went inside, refused to leave and demanded that she spend the day with him. She tried to beg off, saying she had to go to work, she stated.

Cox told deputies that Boyette kept saying, "This is going to be a Romeo and Juliet." She also noticed that he was carrying a pistol, which he had not done during the entire span of their affair.

"At that point I thought he meant he was going to shoot me and then shoot himself, so I asked him and he said yes he was," she stated.

She said she eventually persuaded him to let her go to work, agreeing to call and text him during the day to keep him calm. As she worked, Cox noticed Boyette sitting in the parking lot behind the bank.

A close call

Cox told investigators that Boyette showed up at her house that night with vodka and juice, saying he wanted to party. She convinced him to leave after some talking, and she quickly left to stay with a friend. She remained there until the 16th, when she returned home, her statement said.

She was home just two hours before Boyette showed up "with a crazy look on his face," saying he wanted to party, Cox said. Her statement said the scene played out this way:

Boyette begged her to dump her new boyfriend and get back with him. She said no.

Cox noticed that Boyette was carrying his pistol again and had parked his sport utility vehicle behind her car, blocking her in. When she told him she needed to leave, Boyette pulled out his pistol and started yelling that he was going to shoot himself and that she would likely be charged with his murder.

Then he started crying and saying there was no going back.

Boyette's friend Mark called and tried to talk him out of doing anything rash. That seemed to calm him down for a spell, but then Boyette went after Cox and assaulted her.

He repeatedly threatened her with the gun and tried to shoot himself in the chest. He reportedly assaulted her again, then left as if nothing had happened.

Cox bolted to a friend's house and called her landlord to say she was moving out.

A plea for help

Cox told sheriff's deputies her story on July 18, but insisted she did not want an investigation into the incidents or to see Boyette lose his job one year shy of retirement. She considered the episode a personal matter and just wanted Boyette to leave her alone, according to an incident report. Chief Deputy Butch Henery told Boyette to stay away from Cox.

Deputies also alerted SLED, and officials there asked Berkeley County to investigate the allegations. Keel also suspended Boyette without pay pending the results of that probe.

Investigators spoke several times with Cox and met with her at least two times after her initial report. She told a detective she hadn't heard from Boyette and he seemed to be honoring the request to leave her alone, police said.

In an effort to get her to pursue charges against Boyette, investigators asked her to speak with Capt. Rick Ollic, the detective division supervisor, on July 20. Cox didn't budge. She requested that deputies drop their investigation of Boyette, and she refused to help with prosecution, records indicate.

The same day, Boyette's lawyer, Lionel Lofton, sent his client's resignation letter to SLED.

In discussing the suspension, Lofton said, Boyette and his wife decided together that he should retire and get some medical problems addressed. Boyette had been having unexplained seizures. The couple gave no indication of personal problems between them, according to Lofton.

"Everything appeared to be normal, and they were moving on with their lives," he said.

Fatal shots

Detectives were still trying to arrange a meeting with Lofton and Boyette when, two days later, the former agent decided to end things once and for all.

Gunshots sounded at the close of business that Friday outside Southcoast Community Bank. Calls flooded in to 911 that two people had been shot.

One caller kicked Boyette's gun away from him and told the dispatcher to hurry. He said the man and woman on the ground were breathing, but barely. When emergency workers arrived minutes later, they found Boyette and Cox dead in the bank's drive-through lane.

At SLED, Keel reeled from the news. He had known Boyette since the agent joined SLED in 2000. The men once bonded over their night-owl work habits. And just hours before Cox sought help from sheriff's deputies, Boyette drove to Columbia to watch Keel's swearing-in ceremony. He congratulated his new chief and hugged him.

He seemed like the same old Charlie, the hard-working cop who made friends quickly and could defuse a conflict among officers. "You just didn't see this coming," Keel said.

Cox's family, however, still wonders if something more could have been done to protect her. "All she asked was for help to keep him away," her sister, Victoria Ingram, said in an email to The Post and Courier.

Cox's family adopted Mary Ann at 18 months from an abusive home. Ingram described her as a kind person whose only mistake was becoming involved with Boyette.

"This man deserves no sympathy for his actions and does not deserve to be called a respected member of the law enforcement family," Ingram wrote. "He is a murderer, plain and simple."

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594. Reach Andy Paras at 937-5589. Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556.