DILLON COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — A Dillon County elementary school principal who was shot to death early Sunday morning was found dead inside a car by authorities with the suspect still inside, Sheriff Douglass Pernell said.
Wendy Cook, 54, was the principal at Stewart Height Elementary in Dillon County Four School District. Her death was ruled a homicide on Monday by Coroner Donnie Grimsley.
Her funeral will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Cooper Funeral Home Chapel, according to an online obituary.
Authorities arrested Kyle Church, 31, after being called at about 3:15 a.m. to an address on Southwind Road, which is just outside Dillon, to investigate gunshots. according to Dillon County Sheriff Douglas Pernell.
When deputies arrived, Pernell said they found Cook and Church still in a car and that Cook was dead. Deputies also recovered a gun inside the car.
Church has also been charged with possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. He appeared before a magistrate on Monday and will now have to appear before a circuit court judge for a bond hearing, Pernell said.
Pernell said Tuesday that Cook and Church were acquaintances but could not provide additional details. He also said he did not know whether Church was one of Cook’s former students.
The sheriff’s said the next steps in how the case proceeds will be up to the solicitor’s office.
The district posted about the death on its Facebook page on Monday using Cook’s name, picture and title. She was the principal at Stewart Heights Elementary School.
State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said in a statement Monday night 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.”
Church is named in an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit, according to court records.
Teddy Yarborough was killed after a car hit an ATV in June 2020 in Dillon County, according to authorities. Yarborough was a passenger on the ATV at the time.
The lawsuit alleges that Church was driving the ATV and was hit after he failed to yield the right-of-way to a Chevrolet Suburban.
“As a direct and proximate result of the collision, decedent Teddy Oliver Yarborough sustained substantial physical injuries that cause him immense conscious physical, mental, and emotional pain until he ultimately died as a result of those same injuries,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that Church “had a duty to use reasonable and due care” while driving, and failed to keep a proper lookout, was driving too fast, failed “to see or observe things that a reasonable person would see or observe” and failed to take evasive action to prevent hitting the Suburban.
The lawsuit, which was filed in July 2021, requests a jury trial.
Count on News13 for updates on this developing story.