A Columbus man charged with fatally shooting a woman Friday was ordered held without bond this afternoon after a preliminary court hearing.
Lonnie Jacob Ragan, 27, faces murder charges in the death of 28-year-old Holly Laurel Hearn. He also is accused of shooting and wounding her husband, Ryan Hearn, 28, in what appears to have been a long-running dispute over the custody of Ragan's son.
Neighbors reported hearing three shotgun blasts sometime around 7 p.m. in front of the Hearns' house at 5912 Billings Court. According to police, Ragan pulled up to the residence and pointed a shotgun in Ryan Hearn's face, demanding to know where his son was.
Ragan has been separated from his wife, who sometimes stayed with the Hearns. Friends said Holly Hearn was Ragan’s sister-in-law.
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Public defender Charles Lykins suggested that Ragan was supposed to meet the boy somewhere, but he didn't show. Investigators, however, said the boy was not at the Hearns' residence. They said they were still piecing together the motive of the shooting.
At some point during the argument, Holly Hearn came out of the house with a .38-caliber handgun. Police have not determined whether she pointed the gun at Ragan.
"I'm not real sure why Ms. Hearn came out with the gun," Columbus Police Detective Drew Tyner said after a hearing in Recorder's Court. "I would think that she saw him, and she felt the need to protect her husband, to protect her house."
No shots were fired from the handgun, which was found fully loaded, Tyner said.
Ragan fired at least one shotgun blast at Holly Hearn from close range, police said, striking her in the chest. Authorities found her lying a few feet from her front door. Her body is being sent to Atlanta today for an autopsy, Chief Deputy Coroner Freeman Worley said.
Ryan Hearn tried to seek cover from Ragan and hid behind a vehicle. But police said he was shot at least once in the upper leg. Tyner said Ragan attempted to fire another round, but the weapon jammed.
Hearn remains hospitalized, but his injuries are not thought to be life threatening, said Lt. Ronald Hastings.
After the shooting, Ragan fled the scene in his pickup and apparently drove to his father's house before turning himself in to Harris County authorities before midnight Friday, Tyner said. Ragan was booked into the Muscogee County Jail at 2:05 a.m. today on charges of murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to jail records.
Ragan's shotgun has not been recovered.
The charges are not Ragan's first run-in with law enforcement. In 2004, he pleaded guilty in Dayton, Ohio, to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to four years in prison for fatally stabbing a man during a street brawl that began over a keg of beer stolen from a house party, according to court documents and local news accounts.
Ragan pleaded not guilty today to all charges stemming from Friday's shooting. Probable cause was established, and his proceedings were bound to Superior Court.
A number of Holly Hearn's friends filed into Recorder's Court for the hearing and became emotional as Tyner recounted the details. A couple of them expressed doubt that Holly Hearn would have pointed a gun at Ragan.
"She's never held a gun in her life," said Cassady Johnson, a close friend who said Holly Hearn was afraid of guns. "The gun was just in the house as a safety precaution, but it had never even been used."
Another friend, Jennifer Snider, said she had known Holly Hearn for about 12 years.
"She was just a good person," she said. "She didn't deserve this at all. She was the peacemaker out of everybody."