The C.J. Hicks Elementary School faculty, students and staff will have a heavy heart when they return to school next week as they mourn the death of one of their own.
Candace McGriff, a physical education teacher at the school for the last four years, was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon in her apartment located in the 1800 block of Concepts 21 Drive in DeKalb County.
Her 30-year-old fiancé, Antione Hood, has been charged with felony murder.
On Tuesday, DeKalb County Police Department officers responded to the scene around 1 p.m. to find 28-year-old McGriff laying face up on the bedroom floor on the right side of the bed with one bullet wound in the middle of her chest, according to the police report. She was pronounced deceased at the scene by medical first responders.
Hood, who had called 911, told investigators that it was a self-inflicted wound.
He was standing outside the apartment talking with a neighbor when first responders arrived.
With a calm manner, he told police that McGriff shot herself because "he was attempting to leave her and she did not want him to leave," according to the report.
A handgun was located at the scene on the right side of the bed surrounded by male clothing, according to the report.
Hood, who was the only person in the apartment with McGriff, was detained by police at the scene. After a few hours of further questioning with detectives at police headquarters, he was released, says DeKalb Police Capt. Steven Fore.
However, the medical examiner’s report came back Thursday and determined the bullet wound could not have been self-inflicted.
Hood was arrested Friday and booked into the DeKalb County jail.
On Monday when school is back in session, parents and teachers face the difficult task of explaining to C.J. Hicks Elementary students what happened to "Coach" McGriff.
On the homepage of the school's website, underneath a picture of McGriff, some suggestions were posted for parents to help explain the situation to their kids. They also offer the e-mails to two of the guidance counselors at the school.
Superintendent Richard Autry said in an e-mailed statement, "We extend our sincerest sympathy to the family and friends of Ms. McGriff. RCPS will provide the necessary support to the entire C.J. Hicks school community as we return from the break and mourn the loss of a teacher, friend, and colleague."
C.J. Hicks Elementary's principal Nadine Campbell had glowing words about McGriff. "The C.J. Hicks family is heartbroken over the loss of our P.E. teacher, Ms. Candace McGriff. She loved our children, our staff and our school and we loved her."
Campbell says that McGriff, who has been employed at the school since January 2011, will be "greatly missed."
"She led our Fitness Club and taught us all how to build endurance, eat healthy, and lead a healthy lifestyle," she said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with her family as well during this difficult time for all who knew her."
Reactions on social media ranged from shocked and horrified to heartbroken. Most gave thoughts and prayers to her family.
Tiana James wrote on Facebook, "My child her PE teacher... how do explain that to a child with autism that her PE teacher is no longer with us."
Katina Cherie Humphries-Daniels wrote, "Wow, so sad and so young. She was a great P.E. teacher and always greeted u with a smile."
Once the news of Hood's arrest and charges were confirmed, the reactions turned to the domestic violence of the situation.
"Wow! He tried to turn it on her?! He's going to get what he deserves! May she sleep in peace. My gosh!," wrote Roxanne James.
Mailem Reyes wrote, "How horrible! There's no telling what she has been going through with that man. She was probably trying to end the relationship and he killed her so that a real man couldn't have her. Let's pray for everyone that knew her."
Visitation will be held Tuesday, Feb. 24, noon – 8 p.m., with visitation for family from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Rockdale Chapel of Gregory B. Levett and Sons Funeral Homes, 1999 Ga. Highway 138, Conyers.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday, Feb. 25, 1 p.m., at Greenforest Baptist Church, 3250 Rainbow Drive, Decatur. Interment will be at Kennedy Memorial Gardens in Ellenwood.