Officials release IDs of 6 victims in fatal domestic dispute
GREENWOOD, S.C. (AP/WCIV) - The sheriff says that six people found dead in a South Carolina home had all been shot in a domestic dispute that ended with the gunman's suicide.
Greenwood County Sheriff Tony Davis identified the man who fired the shots as 27-year-old Bryan Sweatt. Davis says Sweatt had dated one of the women who was killed and had a child with her.
Davis says the victims include the woman, her parents and two children. The sheriff says the shootings looked like executions.
Officials identified the victims as 51-year-old Richard Fields, 49-year-old Melissa Fields, 26-year-old Chandra Fields, 11-year-old Tariq Kenyon Robinson, and 9-year-old William Asa Robinson.
Davis says Sweatt and the woman were in a custody dispute about their infant child. Davis believes Sweatt broke into the home and was waiting for the victims to come back.
It's unclear how many - if any - victims had been shot before he made the call at 5:54 p.m. Tuesday. A police report said a dispatcher heard a woman in the background say: "Do not point that at me" before the call was disconnected.
Sweatt allowed four children to escape - his 7-month-old daughter, the infant's cousin and two neighborhood children who came to the door after school to play with the Fields' grandchildren.
No one knows why Sweatt let them live and shot the others, Davis said.
"I cannot tell you at this point that I have all the answers for you," he said.
While they're still searching for clues, one thing is clear: Sweatt's life was spinning out of control.
Sweatt has a lengthy arrest record that dates back nearly a decade, according to state police records. Most of his charges were related to property crimes, such as burglary or forgery, although he was arrested once on aggravated assault charges.
He was supposed to be in court Tuesday on a burglary charge, Davis said. The sheriff didn't have many details about the hearing, but said Sweatt faced up to 30 years if he was convicted.
On July 6, 2012, a woman filed a complaint, saying she wanted to have Sweatt checked out because he was threatening suicide, according to a Greenwood County sheriff's office report. She also said she was afraid of him. No charges were filed.
Neighbors said that a few months ago Richard Fields started allowing Sweatt to store his recreational vehicles on his property. The Fields lived in a one-story home on a rural stretch of road south of Greenwood, a city of about 23,000 in northwestern South Carolina.
Neighbor Jeff Hicks said he didn't mind initially but things quickly changed. Strangers began showing up and racing the four-wheelers long into the night, he said, adding that Fields had complained to him about the noise and said he was going to ask Sweatt to stop coming around.
"He just couldn't take it anymore. He was just fed up," Hicks said.
Hicks said he had frequently talked with his quiet, friendly neighbor about hog hunting and other outdoor activities.
"It's a shame. It just tears you up," said Hicks, who last saw Fields Tuesday morning. "I waved to him, and now I'll never see him again. That's how short life is."
On Wednesday morning, Hicks showed an Associated Press reporter the shed and backyard that still houses more than half-a-dozen four-wheelers. Children's toys and a plastic slide were strewn about an adjoining back yard.
Sheriff Davis said Fields also believed that Sweatt had stolen property from him and told him "not to come back."
But on Tuesday, Sweatt returned.
After breaking in, he waited for the victims to come to the house.
Officers went to the home after receiving the 911 call from Sweatt. Davis said while police were on their way, a neighbor called 911 saying four children from that address had arrived at her house and told her a shot had been fired. He said the children remained at her house.
After about an hour and "several unsuccessful attempts" by officers to make contact with anyone in the home, the SWAT team entered and discovered the bodies, authorities said.
"This is a tragedy," said neighbor Ansel Brewer. "It just so hard to imagine something like this going on here. Why would someone do this?"
State Attorney General Alan Wilson has called domestic violence the top crime problem in the state.
That National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says 1 in 4 women in South Carolina will be the victim of domestic violence. In 2005, some 36,000 victims reported being abused. Of those, only 43 percent resulted in an arrest.
Compounding the problem is the statistic that more men kill women in South Carolina than anywhere else in the United States.
The state reports that nearly 28 percent of murders in South Carolina stemmed from domestic violence issues.
For help and to report an abusive relationship, call the state's Stop Violence Against Women program at 803-734-3717. Or call the 24-hour hotline at the nonprofit My Sister's House at 843-744-3242.
Associated Press writers Meg Kinnard and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia and Lisa J. Adams in Atlanta contributed to this report.