Crime & Courts

Warrant: Child was shot in Lexington drug robbery. Suspects charged, 3rd still wanted

Boy, 8, killed during home invasion in Lexington County

An 8-year-old boy was killed early May 14 during a home invasion at a home in the Oak Grove community of Lexington County. Police said the intruder wore a ski mask.
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An 8-year-old boy was killed early May 14 during a home invasion at a home in the Oak Grove community of Lexington County. Police said the intruder wore a ski mask.

A sunny cul-de-sac on Cedar Vale Drive in the Lexington County neighborhood of Greyland Forest exudes a quiet suburban existence. But police documents give further details about a violent night that shattered the peaceful atmosphere.

The 100 block of Cedar Vale Drive was the site of a May 14 shooting that left two men wounded and an 8-year-old dead during a planned drug robbery gone wrong, the documents say.

The two-story family home might not be the typical image of a house where drugs are being packaged up and sold, but that’s what was happening at 112 Cedar Vale Drive, according to arrest warrants and statements by the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department.

“Several pounds” of marijuana were set to be sold inside the home. Police said the marijuana was with packing material typically used to sell the illegal substance.

Other people had different plans for the marijuana. The warrants describe an orchestrated robbery that went awry.

In the early morning of May 14, the homeowner, Austin Hanahan, sat on a couch with his 8-year-old son sleeping between him and another woman who lived in the house, Linda Lyn Monette, the warrants say.

Just after midnight, a masked man armed with a gun kicked in a back door and planned to steal the marijuana, according to the warrants. But the homeowner, Austin Hanahan, had a gun by his side, according to a statement given to police. A gun battle broke out. A bullet struck Hanahan in the stomach. Another bullet may have hit the burglar, police said.

When the shooting was done, Hanahan saw his son, Mason Hanahan, was hit, a police report says. The child was shot in the head.

The man who broke in knew the drugs were at the home because Monette and another suspect set up the robbery, according to the warrants. The police documents name Reynerio Rafael Romero Jr. as a co-conspirator with Monette, although the warrants don’t indicate that he was at the house that night.

Police are also looking for a third person who they say broke into the house and fired a gun. Monette was waiting for the gunman to break in and steal the drugs, the warrants say.

When a deputy arrived at the scene, he found Austin Hanahan outside on the phone and bleeding from his stomach. Hanahan told the deputy, whose name was removed from the report, that the shooter left on foot. Police search dogs were called out to try to track the man. Later, police determined the burglar drove away.

Inside the house, the deputy found “blood all over the floor,” he wrote. He saw Monette and a gun lying on the floor near the couch. Emergency crews arrived and started treating the 8-year-old. Paramedics rushed the child to Lexington Medical Center, where he died.

The following afternoon, police arrested Monette, charging her with possession with intent to sell the marijuana.

Authorities questioned her about the break-in, the warrants show. She lied to police about what she knew, an investigator said in a report. She also deleted text messages with a person of interest in the case just after the shooting, investigators said. She refused to tell police the name of the person they were searching for, and her story about what happened kept changing, according to documents.

Police obtained a search warrant for Monette’s phone and data from the device as well as surveillance footage, all of which implicated Romero in the set-up, the warrants say. Later, Monette admitted to investigators that Romero was involved, according to the police.

Police are still searching for the man who broke into the house and shot the child, Capt. Adam Myrick of the sheriff’s department said.

“Detectives are still working very hard to identify and locate” the suspect, according to Myrick. “With multiple people involved, there are likely others who have some information that could prove helpful to us.”

Police also charged Monette with murder, attempted murder, first-degree burglary, armed robbery, criminal conspiracy and obstructing justice. Romero was charged with accessory before the fact of murder and conspiracy.

Though the warrants indicate the marijuana belonged to Hanahan, police have not charged him, according to court records. He was hospitalized with what authorities said were non-life threatening injuries. Documents showed he had surgery to remove a bullet.

Murder and first-degree burglary are punishable with life in prison. At minimum, a murder conviction comes with a 30-year sentence. If found guilty of burglary, a person must serve at least 15 years.

Prosecutors can seek the death for anyone accused of murder if they the murder was committed while in the commission of a burglary or robbery or if the victim is a child less than 11 years old. Attempted murder carries a mandatory minimum of 30 years. For robbery, a judge can give someone 10 to 30 years. The crime of conspiracy is punishable with up to five years.

Monette and Romero are being held at the Lexington County Detention Center.

Lexington County Sheriff’s Department is urging anyone who knows people involved with the robbery and shooting to call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC. Information can be shared anonymously.

David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.