A jealous stalker, waiting outside his ex-girlfriend’s home with a high-powered rifle, shot her to death Sunday morning, police said.
The gunman also wounded a Rathdrum, Idaho, man who was with the victim.
Then he turned the rifle on himself and pulled the trigger. According to police, he took a bullet in the chest, narrowly missing his heart, but did not die.
Killed in the surprise attack was 42-year-old Susan A. Foutz, a convenience store clerk and mother of two.
A man neighbors described as Foutz’s current boyfriend - Charles Babb, 39 - was shot in the side. After surgery, he was listed in fair condition at Kootenai Medical Center.
The alleged gunman, 46-year-old Stephen A. Cherry of Post Falls, was in critical condition late Sunday.
“It’s just one of those jealousy things,” said neighbor Dennis Shipp.
After the shooting, investigators pored over the driveway and yard at Foutz’s home at 10170 N. Hauser View Road. Overlooking Hauser Lake, the gated private road is sparsely populated with ranches and homes.
“We call it a smoking-gun case. There’s no doubt who did it,” said Kootenai County sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger.
Foutz’s friends described Cherry as an obsessed stalker. Police said the two had dated several months ago.
The victim’s boss said she had reported to work once with facial bruises after a fight with Cherry. Arguments between them were common.
“She often talked about that. She’d have a restraining order (against Cherry), and the next day, she’d be riding around with him. We didn’t understand it,” said Glen Black, owner of the Hauser Smoke Shop. “We knew that there were fights.”
Black said Cherry kept coming to the store to visit Foutz while she worked. Finally, the store owner told her Cherry wasn’t welcome there.
“We asked her not to bring her private life into the store,” he said. “This is a busy store.”
Wolfinger said Foutz obtained a temporary protection order against Cherry in March but didn’t renew it when it expired in early April.
Three days before the killing, Cherry was arrested for trespassing at Foutz’s home. He was booked and released.
“There’s only so much you can do,” said Wolfinger. “There are 1,300 square miles in Kootenai County and 90,000 people. There’s a lot of people in this county we have to take care of. We can’t just sit on one guy.”
According to investigators, Cherry parked about 300 yards from Foutz’s home and waited early Sunday.
A clerk at the smoke shop called Foutz to remind her she was scheduled to work. Foutz apologized, saying she’d forgotten.
She opened the front door and hurried to her car. Babb also came out and headed to his car.
This is what police say happened: Cherry opened fire with his 30.06 rifle. It was about 6:15 a.m.
One slug ripped through a car side window into Babb’s arm and side. Babb staggered out of his car and ran around the house and into the forest. He left a trail of blood on the lawn.
Cherry shot Foutz twice through the open driver’s side door of her car.
Inside the house, a friend of Foutz’s, 18-year-old Tammy J. Lewis of Post Falls, was startled by the sound of gunfire. She looked out the window. Cherry saw her. She frantically dialed 911 as the gunman tried to get inside the locked front door.
Cherry leveled the rifle at the doorknob and blew it apart, sending pieces flying. As he entered the house, Lewis fled into the woods. Cherry briefly gave chase.
Despite his wounds, Babb ran to Shipp’s house - a quarter of a mile away - and pounded on the door.
Shipp woke up and opened the door. Babb - bloody, pale and sweating - collapsed on the porch.
“He said, ‘He’s after me! He’s out there!’ He said, ‘I’ve been shot and Sue’s been killed,”’ Shipp said. “He was trying to hide.”
Back at Foutz’s home, Cherry stood on the steps of the house and fired a final shot, trying to take his own life. He collapsed, but still was alive when deputies and paramedics arrived.
If Cherry survives, he will be charged with murder, Wolfinger said.
Cherry’s problems with drugs and alcohol have gotten him in trouble in recent years, records show.
Last January, he was arrested for drunken driving. In November 1994, he was convicted of felony cocaine possession. Police discovered the drug in his pocket after they had come to break up a fight between Cherry and his father, who apparently both lived in the Spokane Valley at the time. A year before that, Cherry had been arrested on an assault charge.
Foutz built the Hauser Lake home with her husband six years ago. The couple, who had two sons, separated months ago.
“She once said she felt really safe in this home, backed up against the mountain,” said a friend, who asked not to be named. “That really made her feel safe.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos Map of Hauser Lake area