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Dawson Christian Academy student recovering after gunshot to face in suspected murder-suicide that killed 3
Tracy Lynne Runnels and daughters Emaleigh and Haleigh Bauer. - photo by For The Times

A sophomore at Dawson Christian Academy is recovering from a gunshot wound to the face after she was involved in a suspected murder-suicide at a home in Lumpkin County on April 5.

Haleigh Bauer, 16, has undergone surgery and is expected to survive, according to authorities. Her mother, identified as Tracy Lynne Runnels, 38, of Dahlonega, was shot and killed at the scene of the incident.

Authorities have also identified two other people who died from gunshot wounds: Runnels’ sister Kelly Jean Garrison, 35, of Tampa, Fla., and Kelley James McDonald Jr., 39, also of Tampa.

The Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office said McDonald killed the two women before killing himself. McDonald was wanted for domestic battery by strangulation and burglary with assault or battery by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office stemming from an alleged Dec. 30 incident against Garrison, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Melissa Kincheloe said.

Another daughter of Runnels, Emaleigh Bauer, 13, was also at the home and escaped. She called 911 from a neighbor’s house. She is in seventh grade at Dawson Christian Academy.

In a press release, the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office stated that at 8:21 a.m. April 5, the office received a call from a neighbor, who said they had seen a suspicious male walking through their yard toward their neighbor’s house and said they had heard gunshots coming from the home.

Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard said deputies responded to the call around 8:30 a.m. to Bryn Drive. The residence has a Dawsonville address but is in Lumpkin County.

The first deputy on scene saw a woman’s body while he was walking toward the garage. He was joined by another deputy.

“As they were clearing the residence, they heard three other gunshots,” Jarrard said.

The deputies discovered two more people dead, as well as the 16-year-old and a 2-year-old. The 2-year-old was Garrison and McDonald’s daughter, according to a Tampa Bay Times report.

Jarrard said Garrison, McDonald’s ex-wife, was seeking cover from the shooting suspect with her sister in Lumpkin County. 

Haleigh Bauer and the 2-year-old were transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center for treatment. The 2-year-old did not have injuries, but Haleigh Bauer was transported to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.

Emaleigh Bauer had minor scratches on her hand and was not transported.

Authorities are also investigating a gold- or champagne-colored Ford Explorer early 2000s model that was spotted near the scene and driven by a white woman wearing aviator sunglasses.

“It is just a vehicle of interest, because we do not know how the husband got to the incident location at this time,” Jarrard said.

The three bodies were sent to the GBI crime lab for autopsies.

Sally Martin with Dawson Christian Academy confirmed the two teens attend the school. She said the school held a prayer vigil for the girls and their family and are waiting for Haleigh Bauer to be released before they plan a countywide service.

A GoFundMe page has been created for the family of the victims for medical and funeral expenses. As of press time, $18,410 had been raised out of a $100,000 goal. The name of the fundraiser is “Help heal.”

Daily news editor Clark Leonard and news reporter Nick Watson contributed to this report.

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