A former soldier fatally shot three sleeping children inside their South Carolina home before turning the gun on himself Tuesday night, according to police.
Charles Slacks Jr., 42, also shot and killed another soldier, 38, who worked with his ex-wife during the disturbing murder-suicide.
Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark said during a Wednesday press conference that the woman witnessed her ex-husband shoot the fellow service member before he shoved past her to kill the kids, ages 5, 6, 11.
“Little children were sleeping in the comfort of their own bed,” Roark said.
During the panicked moments, the woman rushed to use the slain soldier’s phone because hers was upstairs charging, Roark said.
When she heard gunshots from inside the home, she rushed and saw her husband at the top of the staircase right before he killed himself, Roark said.
“Anybody who has children — anybody who has empathy toward a child dying so violently could understand how that mother is feeling,” the police chief said.
The mother, Aletha Holliday, and Slacks shared two children, according to court records reported on WIS-TV. It is not known whether the third child belonged to Slacks.
Holliday and Slacks officially divorced on March 2, court records said. Holliday is a sergeant major in the Army, according to her LinkedIn account.
The slain soldier who worked with the children’s mother had no relationship with her outside of their jobs and it’s unclear why Slacks visited the home to carry out his bloody slaying. He still had a key to the home when he arrived around 10:30 p.m.
The slain soldier’s identity has not been revealed as authorities track down his next of kin.
“It was a long night,” Sumter County Coroner Robbie Baker said. “This is just an awful thing.”
Both Slacks and the killed soldier were both assigned to US Army Central at Shaw Air Force Base, the Army said
Slacks worked in ammunition logistics at the Air Force base as a Defense Department civilian, and served in the Army from 1999-2006, Military.com reported.
Two of the kids attended an elementary school in the county and the other child went to middle school, Sumter school system officials said.
State Sen. Thomas McElveen, who represents Sumter, led the state Senate in a moment of silence.
“As a father, I am absolutely nauseated up here talking about it,” the Democrat and father of three said.
In a tweet, he called the tragedy an “evil, tragic, and unthinkable act.”
With Post wires