A man charged with killing his mother-in-law and shooting his wife and her grandmother outside a community college opened fire as his 4-year-old daughter sat with the women in a minivan that was riddled with gunfire, police said Thursday.
The girl was injured by flying glass, and the two women who were shot Wednesday afternoon were still being treated for their injuries.
Authorities said Thomas Franklin May III, 34, could face the death penalty if convicted of capital murder in the killing of Brenda Watson, 62, of Opelika. Her daughter, 36-year-old Bethany Lynn May, and mother, 93-year-old Maude Ethell Marshall, were injured in the shooting.
May also was charged with attempted murder and firing into an occupied vehicle, police said.
Court records show Bethany L. May filed a request seeking protection from abuse against Thomas May on Friday, but online records do not provide details. A judge in Lee County issued a temporary order Monday and had scheduled a hearing for May 11, but the sheriff's office said deputies had not located the man to give him the papers at the time of the shooting.
"We would have been looking for him, trying to find him," said Capt. Van Jackson of the Lee County Sheriff's Department.
Police said the shooting occurred in a parking lot at Southern Union Community College, where Bethany May is a student. The two-year college has around 5,000 students and is located about 60 miles east of Montgomery.
The gunman fled the campus moments after the shooting. Less than three hours later, a man drove up, identified himself as the shooter to reporters and photographers still at the school, and waited for officers after members of the media called 911. May was arrested without incident.
A police spokesman said he'd never before see a homicide suspect return to the scene of the crime or identify himself so freely to the media.
"Why he did that I have no clue," said Capt. Allen Elkins.
Elkins said May told officers he worked at a Harley Davidson motorcycle dealership in Opelika, and the store's website included a photograph that identified him as parts manager. For four years ending in 2004 May worked with troubled youth as a residential specialist at the Lee County Youth Development Center, said executive director Laura Cooper.
An acquaintance of May said he met the man through a friend who rides motorcycles.
"Seemed like a friendly enough guy to me," said Michael Sanford. "(I) still can't believe it."