CALLISON, S.C. — Residents were trying to come to grips Wednesday with a horrific night of violence over a custody dispute that left six people dead in a small home on a wooded lot in sprawling, rural Greenwood County.
"It's a horrible tragedy," said neighbor Jeff Hicks.
Pastor Keith Sweat, of nearby Rehoboth United Methodist Church, said the community healing has just begun and it will be a long, difficult process.
The dead were found Tuesday night by SWAT team members who arrived at the home after a man called authorities and said he was thinking about hurting himself, Greenwood County Sheriff's Office spokesman John Long said.
Sheriff Tony Davis said 27-year-old Bryan Eugene Sweatt broke into the home and waited for his victims to return. He used a large-caliber handgun to execute the mother of their 7-month-old child, her parents and two of their grandchildren before killing himself.
Sweatt allowed three other children and the infant to go free before the killings, Davis said.
Sweatt had a long criminal record and a court date Tuesday on a burglary charge for which he faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted, Davis said.
The first 911 call came in at 5:54 p.m. Tuesday. While authorities were en route, a neighbor called 911 to say shots had been fired. Davis said the bodies were discovered when a SWAT team entered the house "after several unsuccessful attempts to make contact" with someone inside.
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Hicks described the home where the shootings took place as a quiet residence where children often rode four-wheelers in the yard.
Yellow crime tape surrounded the single-story residence. Hicks, who lives about 100 yards down a dirt road, said a friend telephoned him Tuesday night to alert him of trouble at the home of the neighbors.
He heard ambulance sirens and a report of hostages being taken, Hicks said. Some children were freed and ran to safety, he said.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is on scene and is continuing the investigation.
Contributing: John Bacon and Michael Winter, USA TODAY; The Associated Press