PORTSMOUTH, Ohio – A man charged into a school where his estranged wife was a teacher Thursday morning, firing a gun before stabbing her as her fifth-grade class watched, police said. He later was found dead in his home after apparently shooting himself during a standoff with police.
The teacher, Christi Layne, underwent surgery and "should be fine," her lawyer told The Columbus Dispatch. Personnel at Cabell Hospital in Huntington, W.Va., where she is being treated, would not release her condition Thursday night.
Police originally said William Michael Layne shot his wife at Notre Dame Elementary, but Chief Charles Horner said it was unclear whether a gunshot fired in the school hit her.
Minutes before the teacher was stabbed, police say her husband stabbed and wounded a different woman in an alley about five blocks from the school.
Horner said at a news conference that he did not know whether that victim, Stephanie Loop, 22, knew either of the Laynes. Loop, 22, was at Grant Medical Center in Columbus, where staff would not release information about her.
Christi Layne had filed for divorce Jan. 25.
"She was terrified something like this would happen," said Rebecca Bennett, Christi Layne's attorney.
The shooting happened around 9 a.m. at the Catholic school on Portsmouth's main road near the Kentucky border. Student Emmaly Baker said she hid in the classroom's coatroom when the gunman came in.
"We heard gunshots, and we heard her yelling. I was scared," she told WSAZ-TV. "The police officer came and got us and she was still laying there and she was hurt really bad."
The suspect fled, and for hours after the shooting, a SWAT team surrounded a house about two miles away. Neighbors saw officers shooting at the house at one point, and police said those shots were with low-caliber bullets used to disable a surveillance camera Layne had installed in his yard.
Neighbor Jack Freeland said police eventually broke through the door with a battering ram and sent in a robot.
Police had been involved in a domestic dispute between the Laynes about two weeks ago, Horner said, but he did not give details.
The 56-year-old suspect, known as Mike, was a retired assistant director at the city's water distribution plant. He apparently shot himself in the head with a shotgun, Coroner Terry Johnson said. He was found in the garage behind his house, Horner said.
Freeland, 37, who often talked with the suspect, said that the couple had separated last summer and that Layne had been acting strangely for several months.
"At nighttime, he was out digging up his yard at 1, 2 in the morning," he said.
Parents, many with cell phones clutched to their ears, congregated across the street from the school and began leaving with their children around 10:30 a.m., said Kathy Hall, the office manager at the Cornerstone United Methodist Church, which also is across the street.
Police said they were reviewing surveillance video from the school to determine how Layne entered the building.
"The doors are locked. So people can't just walk into the school," said Larry Mullins, spokesman for the county's Emergency Management Agency.
The school and another Catholic school nearby were locked down after the stabbing, said Deacon Tom Berg, vice chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus. Classes were canceled for Friday, Berg said.
Thursday evening, an overflow crowd of more than 500 jammed St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Portsmouth for a prayer service. Many said they did not know the victims but came to show support for the families and students affected by the attacks.
Mike Sammons said he went to the church because his daughter had been Christi Layne's student.
"You think in a small town, a small Christian school, you send your children there to kind of protect them from things like this," Sammons said. "But you just never know when or where things are going to happen."