Murder/Suicide – Dead – James Martin (Rock Hill, SC)

James Martin

A former chairwoman of Winthrop University’s Board of Trustees died Monday after investigators say her husband shot her and then shot himself at their Rock Hill home.

James Martin, 91, and his wife, Mary Jean Martin, 81, were pronounced dead at about 8:30 a.m. at their home in the Huntington Place neighborhood off Herlong Avenue, York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said. They had been married for 14 years and had no children together.

Gast called the deaths a murder-suicide.

On Tuesday, autopsy results showed that James and Mary Martin died as a result of gunshot wounds, Gast said.

Police were called to the Martin house at about 8 a.m. after a caregiver found the couple, said Executive Officer Mark Bollinger, spokesman for the Rock Hill Police Department. The door to the house at 1662 Huntcliff Drive was locked, he said, and police don’t believe anyone else was involved in the shootings.

Gast said James Martin left behind a note of instructions, telling whoever found the couple what family members to call. The note was not addressed to a specific person.

Investigators plan to submit forensic evidence to the State Law Enforcement Division, Bollinger said.

On Monday in Rock Hill, the 91-year-old husband of Mary Martin, a former chairwoman of the Winthrop University Board of Trustees who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, shot her as she lay in bed. He then shot and killed himself and was found in that same bed, according to a police report.

So far, as the case remains under investigation, police have not conclusively determined that James H. Martin’s shooting of his wife, 81, was a mercy killing.

But for a York County prosecutor and a Rock Hill church leader – both of whom have dealt with murder-suicide and murder allegedly to end suffering – there is no such thing as a mercy killing.

“The idea that someone, even a spouse who loves the other person, would make the decision to take the life of the other is frightening,” said Willy Thompson, the 16th Circuit deputy solicitor who prosecuted Hartner. “The victim isn’t given a chance to prepare for death, to talk with family, any of that.

“Even if there is illness involved, the victim can’t prepare and no one around them can prepare.”

In the Martin case, there is no one to prosecute because the killer committed suicide.


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