HAMPTON, SC (February 6, 2019) – A 39-year-old Barnwell County man has been sentenced to life in prison of the murders of his unborn son and the child’s 16-year-old mother during a 2017 drive-by shooting in Estill.
Johnnie Lee McKnight also was found guilty Wednesday in Hampton County General Sessions Court of three counts of attempted murder, discharging a firearm into a dwelling and possession of a firearm during commission of a violent crime.
Alydia Ling and her unborn son, just three weeks from his expected delivery date, died at the scene before emergency personnel arrived, just minutes after the shooting.
“This crime is simply tragic and beyond outrageous,” said Hunter Swanson of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “Johnnie Lee McKnight’s ego stoked this toxic relationship with a girl 22 years younger than him, and it ultimately caused her death and the death of her son.”
Ling was walking on the sidewalk outside her home on 5th Street at about 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2017, when McKnight drove up and ordered her into his 1992 blue Honda Accord. The girl’s brother, Shamond, was on the home’s porch. He told Alydia not to go with McKnight and sent her inside. Shamond Ling and McKnight then argued, before McKnight sped away.
However, when McKnight reached the end of the block, he turned around and drove back to the house. He began shouting from his car, then pointed a rifle out the driver’s side window and sprayed fire at the home.
Shamond Ling, a security guard and concealed-weapons permit holder, was still outside and returned fire with a 9-mm handgun. A shot from McKnight’s rifle struck Alydia Ling in the neck as she stood next to her mother, Debra, in the front doorway. Debra Ling’s friend, Wayne Ritter, also was in the house during the shooting.
McKnight was apprehended the next day in Bamberg County. He was driving a vehicle belonging to his father’s employer, but the Honda Accord he drove during the shooting was located by the Estill Police Department.
Although McKnight’s rifle was never recovered, gunshot residue tests on the Honda indicated that a firearm was discharged inside the car. Also discovered in the car was a camera containing photos of an assault-style rifle and magazines with 30-round capacity.
Clothes recovered from the truck contained gunshot residue and McKnight’s DNA The DNA test also confirmed that McKnight was the father of Alydia’s unborn son.
Swanson called 17 witnesses during the two-day trial, including investigators from the Estill Police Department, and expert witnesses from the Medical University of South Carolina and the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division.
Circuit Court Judge Carmen T. Mullen sentenced McKnight to life sentences for each of the murders. McKnight also received 30 years for each of the three attempted murders, 10 years for discharging a firearm into a dwelling and five years for possession of a weapon during commission of a violent crime.
Swanson leads the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office Special Victims Unit, which prosecutes cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and other crimes against vulnerable populations. Swanson has earned convictions in all eight cases she has prosecuted since the SVU was formed in December 2017.