Coroner: Body found in attic was Ratliff's

Ronald Ratliff

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The Charleston County Coroner's Office has confirmed that the body discovered in the attic of a Debbenshire home on Tuesday is that of Ronald David Ratliff.

Coroner Rae Wooten said at a Wednesday morning press conference tht Ratliff died of a single gunshot wound to the neck.

Ratliff's death ends a three-day nightmare for a West Ashley family.

For three days Melissity Hayes and her family slept in hotels under Charleston County Sheriff's deputies' protective custody after authorities say her ex-husband, Ronald David Ratliff, 44, killed her mother on Saturday in West Ashley. He had taken off and authorities wouldn't say whether or not Linda Hayes, 66, who died of gunshots wounds at the hospital, was the intended target, or if the shots were meant for Melissity.

Sheriff's officials say Ratliff walked into Melissity's home on Debbenshire Drive Saturday night and shot her mother Linda Hayes while she was in bed. Authorities immediately released the photograph of the white van Ratliff was last seen in. Meanwhile, Hayes and her family were put under the protective detail.

Tuesday afternoon, Charleston County Sheriff's officials found Ratliff's van on Sol Legare Road on James Island near the marsh. SWAT was called in and they slowly approached the van with their guns drawn. Ratliff was not inside.

Neighbors, who had seen the van on television were shocked it was in their neighborhood. Marlane Wilder watched as deputies and SWAT members combed the area searching for any sign of Ratliff.

"I'm kind of still afraid to go near the house really," Marlane Wilder said.

Authorities were beginning to search the homes surrounding the van.

"I wont feel at ease until this guy is caught," Jose Parks said.

Moments later, squad cars rushed up Sol Legare with their sirens whaling. Shots had been fired back at the Hayes' home on Debbenshire Drive.

Sheriff Al Cannon says the family had just returned home when Ratliff, from the back yard of the house, shot into the home hitting his estranged wife Melissity Hayes.

"We had a detective that was sitting out front, ran inside, cleared the house of about 8 or 10 people," Sheriff Cannon said.

According to authorities someone got Melissity in the car and began heading towards the hospital. A Charleston City Police officer pulled the car over for speeding. When the officer saw someone had been shot, he transported her to St. Francis hospital. She had non-life threatening injuries and according to hospital officials was released Tuesday night.

Meanwhile back on Debbenshire Drive, Ronald Ratliff had gotten into the home and the detective on protective detail had cleared the family outside.

"They saw what appeared to be blood coming down from the vent in the attic and that's when they set the perimeter," Sheriff Cannon said.

Law enforcement with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office and Charleston City Police surrounded the home. They shot gas grenades inside and slowly made their way in searching for the source of the blood and for Ratliff.

At around 7 P.M. authorities found the body of a male in the attic. Sheriff Cannon did not say whether or not they were self inflicted wounds but said deputies did not return fire after Ratliff shot his ex-wife.

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