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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2008

Man stabs wife in 5th-grade classroom, later found dead in home, police say

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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, was in critical condition at a hospital in nearby Huntington, W.Va., a hospital spokeswoman said.

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 the teacher. Loop was also in critical condition.

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. 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 near the school, 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.

I wasn t afraid for my own safety, I was afraid for the children, because these turn out so terrible, you know, Hall said.

The scene was chaotic, with police cars and few ambulances descending on the school, and the fire department blocked off the street.

The school and another Catholic school nearby were locked down, said Deacon Tom Berg, vice chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus. The diocese was sending a crisis team.

Local public schools also were locked down, said Superintendent Jan Broughton, who oversees the community s public schools.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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