Pristine bullet leads to murder charge in target shooting
A woman killed while looking out the window of her South Carolina home was intentionally shot by a neighbor shooting at targets in his yard instead of by a ricocheting bullet as he told investigators, according to authorities.
The charge against the shooter was upgraded to murder on Monday. Crime scene technicians determined the fatal bullet could not have deflected at an angle off a satellite dish being used as a target and then struck the woman in the chest, prosecutor Barry Barnette said.
"You can see that bullet didn't ricochet. That bullet is in pristine condition," Barnette said, showing a judge a photo on his cellphone during a bond hearing in Cherokee County on Monday. He said the slug was removed from the victim's chest during an autopsy.
Nicholas Skylar Lucas, 30, was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter on Sunday, a day after 42-year-old Kesha Luwan Lucille Tate died in her own Gaffney home.
But prosecutors upgraded the charge to murder after more evidence came in, Barnette said. Murder carries 30 years to life in a conviction, while involuntary manslaughter carries up to five years.
Tate had pulled back the curtain of her kitchen window and was looking out when she was shot, investigators said.
Lucas had to turn and intentionally fire in Tate's direction to hit her and the bullet in Tate's chest matched the size of the ammunition used in the .45-caliber handgun Lucas was firing, Barnette said.
Tate told the judge the shooting was a "complete accident" and he can't believe anyone would think he would intentionally kill her.
"She always asked me for help I was always in my backyard. I'm really confused about this whole situation,' Tate said. "I've done all kinds of yard work for this lady and everything."
Several of Tate's nine children were in the home and the father of some of those children died of a heart attack less than a year ago, her family said at the bond hearing.
"She doesn't deserve to be gone from her children," said Beverly Vercher, Tate's sister.
Lucas is also charged with shooting under the influence and discharging a firearm into a dwelling.
Lucas didn't have a lawyer at the hearing and a magistrate said a higher court will have to determine if bond should be set.