A Florida woman on the run from her allegedly abusive ex-husband was killed when he tracked her to her sister’s house and fatally shot them both Tuesday morning before killing himself, PEOPLE confirms.
Kelly Garrison had taken leave from her elementary school teaching job in the Tampa area to flee with her 2-year-old daughter to her sister’s home in Georgia. Meanwhile, authorities in Hillsborough County, Florida, searched for her ex-husband, Kelley James McDonald, who was wanted for an alleged Dec. 30 assault on Garrison in her home, The Tampa Bay Times reports.
“They had left the Florida area to come here and hide for safety and the suspect found them,” Sheriff Stacy Jarrad of Lumpkin County, Georgia, said at a news conference Thursday.
Sheriff’s deputies who responded to the shooting Thursday morning at the Dahlonega home of Garrison’s sister, Tracy Runnels, found three bodies they later identified as those of Garrison, 35; Runnels, 38; and McDonald, 39.
Tracy Runnels, who was murdered along with her sister, Kelly Jean Garrison, the ex-wife of the killer
The sheriff said McDonald entered the home around 8:30 a.m., shot Runnels and a 16-year-old girl, then continued through the house and shot Garrison before killing himself.
The 16-year-old underwent “multiple surgeries” but was recovering at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The girl’s father, Douglas Bauer, said that after the girl had been shot by McDonald, she ran to grab the 2-year-old and then hid behind a bathroom’s locked door to further protect them both from the shooter, Bauer told the Journal-Constitution.
A relative of the 16-year-old set up a GoFundMe page to assist with medical and other expenses.
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Garrison and McDonald were married in 2011 and divorced last fall, according to court records obtained by the Times in which Garrison alleged a long-running pattern of threats and harassment by McDonald before and after the divorce.
On Dec. 30, Garrison alleged that McDonald broke into her Tampa condo and waited for her to come home. Her allegation that he choked her — a neighbor who heard her screams intervened and McDonald fled, the Times reported — led Garrison to secure a court order requiring McDonald to stay 300 feet away from her.
But after authorities in Hillsborough County issued an arrest warrant for Garrison accusing him of breaking and entering and assault, he apparently went on the run, they said.
Garrison subsequently took leave from her elementary teaching job at Corbett Preparatory School in Carrollwood so she could be safe with her sister in Georgia, said the school’s headmaster Joyce Burick Swarzman. “She knew what she needed to do,” Swarzman told the Times.
“This is one of these senseless things that are unthinkable, unimaginable, and horrific and so unfair,” Swarzman said. “We are all mourning her loss.”
“Her dream was for her baby to grow up here at Corbett Prep,” she said. “Everyone will miss her light.”