Originally created 12/11/97

Murder-suicide puzzles authorities



CLAXTON, Ga. -- A murder-suicide this week in rural Evans County continues to shock and puzzle police and family members.

Authorities say Charles Sneed, 35, walked into his ex-wife's home Monday night and called for his 4-year-old daughter, Hannah.

When she came to him, he picked her up, placed a .22-caliber handgun to her head and pulled the trigger.

His ex-wife, Denise, ran into the room and the two began shoving and pushing each other, said Claxton Police Chief Edward Oglesbee Jr.

Charles Sneed then tried to shoot his ex-wife, but the gun misfired. He then stepped outside the house and fatally shot himself in the head.

Denise Sneed grabbed her daughter and rushed to a neighbor's house to call for help.

Hannah Sneed was taken to Evans Memorial Hospital in Claxton, where she was pronounced dead at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"She really loved her daddy," said the Rev. Robert Ferrell of Rehoboth Baptist Church in Claxton, a town an hour west of Savannah. "He's not a monster; he loved her. I know it doesn't look like that now."

The deaths come at a difficult time for Evans County, only 30 miles from Toombs County, where four members of a foster family -- two of them children -- were shot to death in their home last Thursday.

"I really feel like God is going to come soon and say, `Hey my children, let's go and get out of this place,' " The Rev. Ferrell said.

The preacher said Charles Sneed had been upset about the breakup of his marriage over the past year or so.

"Countless times he sat in my office weeping and telling me how he wished things would be different," the Rev. Ferrell said.

The minister said the couple had moved to Claxton from Dalton, Ga., more than a year ago. When their marriage began to fall apart, he said, Charles Sneed struggled to deal with the change.

"I don't believe it was a custody battle. He loved his little girl and he loved (Denise), too," he said. "He just couldn't let her go."

Relatives of Denise Sneed said there was no hostility when the couple appeared together at an oyster roast last month.

Tommy Lynn, Charles Sneed's employer at Lynn Construction Contractors in Claxton, said Mr. Sneed was an easygoing man who often brought Hannah by the office.

He said Mr. Sneed, a construction project supervisor, gave no indication anything was wrong during his work day Monday.

"We're really shocked," he said. "There was nothing unusual about his behavior -- nothing."

He said Hannah was a vibrant girl who seemed happy with her father. The Rev. Ferrell said he often took his son fishing with Mr. Sneed and Hannah.

The Rev. Ferrell will officiate the funeral at 11 a.m. today at Rehoboth Baptist Church. Hannah Sneed will be buried in Anderson Cemetery in Claxton.

Charles Sneed's body will be sent to his hometown of Dalton, north of Atlanta.

Denise Sneed, he said, is still in shock.

"It caught her as off-guard as it did anybody else," he said."She's holding up."