Mom critically injured in shooting

LANCASTER -- A Rock Hill man shot his wife in the head while his 7-year-old daughter looked on Sunday night, Later, he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide, authorities said.

The woman, Jennell Williams Sears, 34, of 1778 Logan Terry Road, Lancaster, was in critical condition at a Charlotte hospital on Monday evening, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Lancaster County Coroner Mike Morris said the woman was flown to Carolinas Medical Center with injuries from a gunshot to the left side of her head. He said the child was not injured.

According to a Lancaster County Sheriff's Office report, the incident happened around 8 p.m. Sunday, when Timothy Sears was scheduled to meet his wife, Jennell Sears, at the Sheriff's Office parking lot to exchange custody of their daughter, who had been staying with her father for Father's Day weekend. Authorities said the couple was in the process of getting a divorce.

Witnesses told police that after the child got into her mother's car, Timothy Sears walked to the driver's side of the car, shot his wife through the window and drove away in a gray Dodge truck, the report states. The victim's car rolled into a ditch and someone driving past called for help, according to the report.

Crash precedes fatal gunfire

In the meantime, Sears drove west on S.C. 9. He lost control of his truck and crashed near the intersection of Camp Creek Road and Camp Drive, the report states.

Sheriff's spokesman Tom Holland said a resident saw the accident, offered to help Sears and called authorities. But Holland said Sears shot himself before authorities reached the scene.

"The citizen went back to his house to get something to help clean up, and on the way back, he heard a gunshot," Holland said. "When he (Sears) found out he was going to get caught, I guess he decided he'd rather kill himself than risk going to jail."

Morris said Sears died at the scene from gunshot wounds to the head and face.

Holland said the child is in the custody of family members.

Maj. Barry Faile, a Lancaster County sheriff's investigator, said details of the couple's relationship were limited Monday. He said the Sheriff's Office is a meeting place commonly mandated by judges for couples with strained relationships who are exchanging custody of their children. Faile said it's unclear if that was the case Sunday.

Sunday's shooting was not the first time Timothy Sears had a run-in with the law. In July 2006, he was arrested and charged with domestic violence in Rock Hill, according to the State Law Enforcement Division.

Family members spent most of Monday at the hospital. Carla Hill, Jennell Sears' stepsister, said the child "is doing fine," but she declined comment on other details.

"Our family is OK," she said. "This is just a very critical time."