ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A woman seeking court protection against the father of her four children was fatally shot in front of the youngsters in what police called a murder-suicide.
Melissa Amerson, 26, was loading the children into her minivan just after 8 a.m. Friday when she was shot. Police said her attacker, Rodney Morris-El Sr., 37, then walked about 30 feet into the yard and turned the weapon on himself.
Officials said the children, who range in age from 10 to 5, weren't harmed.
Neighbor Aaron Foster said he heard children screaming and the oldest child ran to his apartment and said, "Please help me. My mom has just been shot." Foster said he rushed outside and found Amerson slumped over in the van. He said it looked as though she had been putting the twin 5-year-olds in their booster seats to take them to school when she was shot.
"I took the kids out of the back seat," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "They were screaming and yelling. My uncle Steve came outside then and I told him to take the kids and get them into the house. As I looked over to my right, I see the assailant take the gun and point it at me. He pulled it back then shot himself in the head."
St. Louis Circuit Court records show that Melissa Amerson obtained a temporary order of protection Aug. 29 to keep Morris-El from coming near her, but it had not been served because sheriff's deputies could not find him. The order was terminated after she failed to attend a hearing Thursday.
Amerson said in court documents that Morris-El had coerced, stalked and harassed her.
"He has a weapon; has threatened to kill me," she wrote in the court documents.
The victim's father, Ty Amerson, said he was home in Kirkwood when his 10-year-old granddaughter called to say that Morris-El had killed her mom.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)