SC elementary principal found dead in car; suspect arrested

August 23, 2022 GMT

DILLON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina elementary school principal was found shot to death inside a car and the suspected shooter, who was in the car too, is in custody, authorities said.

Wendy Cook, 54, was shot early Sunday, Dillon County Sheriff Douglass Pernell said. Coroner Donnie Grimsley ruled her death a homicide on Monday, WBTW-TV reported.

Authorities arrested Kyle Church, 31, after being called at about 3:15 a.m. Sunday to an address just outside Dillon to investigate reports of gunshots, Pernell said. When deputies arrived, Pernell said, they found Cook and Church inside a car and Cook was dead. Deputies also recovered a gun, he said.

Church is being held in the Dillon County Detention Center on charges of murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. It was unknown if he has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Cook was the principal at Stewart Height Elementary School in Dillon County School District 4. She had worked with the district for nearly 25 years, District 4 Superintendent Ray Rogers told news outlets.

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State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said in a statement Monday that she was “saddened” by Cook’s death.

“Her colleagues and friends in the Dillon County School District 4 talk about the great work she did leading her school and the many impacts she had on her students and staff,” Spearman said. “My deepest condolences are with the entire Dillon school community as they grieve this loss.”

Pernell said Tuesday that Cook and Church were acquaintances but a motive for the slaying has not been released. He also said he did not know whether Church was one of Cook’s former students.

Online court records show Church’s next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 5.