Fort Mill man accused of killing NC girlfriend dies in hospital

slyttye@charlotteobserver.com, jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJune 20, 2014 

Emergency workers respond to the scene of a wreck on Hwy. 21 in Fort Mill Monday. Police in Charlotte say the driver of the wrecked car shown here intentionally drove into the path of a truck in a suicide attempt. They also say the man is accused of killing his girlfriend the night before.

STEPHANIE MARTELL — FORT MILL TIMES

— The Fort Mill man accused of killing his girlfriend and then driving his car into a truck the next day died Thursday night of his injuries, hospital officials said.

Police were planning to charge Jimmy Wayne Estes, 51, with murder in connection with the death of Frances Gutnick, 52. She was found in her home at about 11 p.m. Sunday in Charlotte’s Steele Creek area suffering from life-threatening assault wounds.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police identified Estes as a suspect in the case, but before officers could find him, Estes was seriously injured in a wreck about 2 p.m. Monday on U.S. 21 in Fort Mill, near Gold Hill Road. Firefighters said the car Estes drove slammed into a truck carrying scrap metal, knocking the truck on its side.

That same day, York County Sheriff’s deputies were helping Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police track Estes, listed as a wanted murder suspect, and interviewing family members and acquaintances, according to a Sheriff’s Office report. Detectives learned that Estes sent a text message to a family member “in regards to attempting suicide,” but provided a “vague location” of where he planned to kill himself.

Deputies went to the general area, but could not find Estes. Minutes later, they learned about the accident on U.S. 21 and identified Estes as the man they were looking for, the report states.

Estes was taken to Carolinas Medical Center with broken bones and a serious head injury.

Estes died Thursday evening, authorities said.

He sold used furniture in Rock Hill and Fort Mill and enjoyed riding motorcycles, his neighbors said.

Estes and his parents moved to Fort Mill from Lancaster three years ago.

Estes and Frances Gutnick had been together for about six months, but within the last month were no longer an item, said Kelsey Gutnick, Frances’ daughter.

When her mom was with Estes, he was never violent, she said.

“No, never hurt her,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I would’ve known ... I’m just very shocked.”

Frances Gutnick graduated from the University of North Carolina Charlotte and worked at Piedmont Natural Gas as a financial analyst. She leaves behind two children, her daughter, Kelsey, 18, and a son, 21.

“She would want us to celebrate her life,” Kelsey Gutnick said. “She lived a great life; she was very happy and very selfless. She had a heart of gold.”

Last week, Kelsey Gutnick had gone to the beach on vacation. She returned home last Sunday and gave her mother a pair of starfish silver and turquoise earrings.

“I watched her open them and she loved them,” she said.

Her mother enjoyed dancing and spending time on a boat, Kelsey Gutnick said. They had just gone to a country concert together two weeks ago.

“She loved her family and friends,” Kelsey Gutnick said. “She was just a great woman.”

The Charlotte Observer contributed to this report

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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