Paul A. Buchannon, 38, is accused of shooting McKnight in the back of the neck near a railroad track in Hill City after shooting her son and nephew at McKnight’s residence on Highway 41.
Clifton and Judy Smith live in a home next to the house on Highway 41 where the incident began around 6 p.m. Thursday evening.
Someone pounded on their door before the first set of shootings took place, Judy Smith said. By the time the couple was able to answer the door, the person had fled, she explained through tears.
Shortly after, they heard gunshots ring out, and glimpsed Buchannon forcing McKnight into a black Camaro the Smiths said belonged to McKnight. Buchannon subsequently left the house and drove north to Hill City with McKnight.
Law enforcement was on the scene three to four minutes later, Clifton stated.
“They did an excellent job,” he said.
Clifton said he saw McKnight conversing earlier in the day with Buchannon around 3:30 p.m.; they did not seem to be arguing.
“She was leaned against her Camaro, and he was standing in front of her,” he said.
The Smiths rent the house where McKnight lived to McKnight’s mother. Christy had lived in the house for about a year, they said.
“It’s a shock to us,” said neighbor LaDonna Coffman, who lives across the highway. “They were real good people over there.”
Coffman’s family did not know Christy well but saw her washing her car and observed two young children playing on the trampoline next to the house, they said.
At the church
Broken glass and wood littered the inside of the Hill City Baptist Church Sunday School wing Friday morning; drops of blood flecked the gray carpet.
Cardboard covered the broken window in the door Buchannon entered through when he was fleeing from law enforcement during Thursday night’s manhunt.
Church members were beginning to repair the damaged interior of the church Friday, a process that included cleaning up a large amount of blood in the bathroom.
It is unclear why Buchannon selected the church as a place to hide. Ernest Cline, a member of Hill City Baptist for more than 40 years, said he knew Buchannon was not a member at the 130-year-old church.
After he entered the Sunday School wing, it appears Buchannon entered the bathroom to try to clean blood off of himself, Cline said. He then moved into a nearby Sunday School room to look out the window that faces the church driveway, dripping blood on the carpet as he moved through the building.
Law enforcement officers notified church members of the incident in the wee hours of Friday morning.
“The law was all in the church last night,” Cline said Friday morning as he and another church member swept up broken glass and began repairing splintered wood.
Black rubber gloves lay on the ground at the back of the sloping cemetery behind the church where an officer shot Buchannon after he brandished a pistol, and a few pieces of crime tape still littered the property.