What started out as an alleged murder and kidnapping late Friday night ended with a man taking his own life in a Hillsboro church early Saturday morning, according to Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera.
The Highland County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a U.S. Route 50 resident at 11:30 p.m. Friday stating that a female was shot inside a residence and that a small child was taken from the home by a male, Barrera said.
Deputies arrived at the home on U.S. 50 and found Sherry Walls, 33, of Hillsboro, who had been shot, the sheriff said.
While the Hillsboro Police Department responded to assist, the sheriff said it was reported that police officers observed a male with a child at the Hillsboro Church of the Nazarene, located at 8230 U.S. 50., about a quarter mile east of the Hillsboro city limits.
The sheriff said the man walked from the location of the original shooting to the church, and that the two locations were a short distance apart.
When police officers arrived at the church parking lot, the male could be observed inside of the church, while the child was standing outside of the church, according to Barrera.
A deputy and police officer grabbed the child from an area outside of the church doorway, and observed a male inside of the church with a handgun, the sheriff said.
He said the scene was secured and the building was surrounded by officers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Hillsboro Police Department and sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office Special Response Team was called to the scene and officers entered the church, where Joshua McLaughlin, 33, of Hillsboro, was found deceased of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Barrera sound officers were stationed outside the church for about two hours before deciding to enter the church. He said they are not sure when McLaughlin apparently shot himself because they never heard a gun shot.
McLaughlin broke a window on the south side of the church to enter the building, Barrera said.
The Highland County coroner and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation were called to assist. Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins was called and a search warrant was executed at the U.S. 50 home.
A member of the congregation, who preferred to speak anonymously, told The Times-Gazette the gunman shot himself in the church sanctuary.
Members of the church board said that they did not believe the gunman was a member of the congregation, according to WCPO-TV.
The Hillsboro Church of the Nazarene made an announcement that a live nativity display and all services have been cancelled over the weekend.
Barrera said the incident remains under investigation.
Sherry Walls’ friends created a GoFundMe to help pay for Walls’ funeral expenses. At press time, the GoFundMe had raised $3,920 in two days. Beca Crawford, who worked with Walls at Walgreens and set up the GoFundMe, told The Times-Gazette that any money left over from the GoFundMe will be given to Walls’ daughter. Crawford is also selling shirts to raise additional money to create a fund for Walls’ daughter to use as an adult.
“Sherry was an amazing woman, mother, friend and coworker,” Crawford said. “She was our sister here at Walgreens. She was family.”
To donate to the GoFundMe, go to gf.me/u/w64c43. To purchase a shirt, go to facebook.com/DNRVINYL1 or search “@DNRVINYL” on Facebook.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.