published Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Relative of 2 women shot in Erlanger at Hutcheson intensive care unit dies

A ribbon adorns the entrance to the Battlefield Primary School in Fort Oglethorpe in honor of Mary Sue Benson, who was shot to death Jan. 6 at Erlanger at Hutcheson. Benson worked in the school cafeteria.
A ribbon adorns the entrance to the Battlefield Primary School in Fort Oglethorpe in honor of Mary Sue Benson, who was shot to death Jan. 6 at Erlanger at Hutcheson. Benson worked in the school cafeteria.

SERVICES


Visitation for Mary Sue Benson and Charlotte Johnson will be held from 2 to 7 p.m. today at Wilson Funeral Home in Fort Oglethorpe. Services will be private.

Myra Gail McCrary lay in a coma in the intensive care unit at Erlanger at Hutcheson for days, unaware that her mother and sister had been shot to death in the waiting room outside.

Nearly a week after the Jan. 6 shootings, family members of the three women hugged and cried in a downstairs Hutcheson hallway, shaken at everything they'd been through and what they feared would come next.

As the family prepared to bury 56-year-old Mary Sue Benson and her 77-year-old mother, Charlotte Johnson, they were dealt another emotional jolt: McCrary, too, died. One family. One week. Three deaths.

Walker County Coroner Dewayne Wilson said McCrary was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a wood-burning stove inside her home. She died Friday morning, according to W.L. Wilson & Sons Funeral Home, which is handling arrangements.

Fort Oglethorpe police say Mary Sue Benson's 59-year-old estranged husband, James Benson, unloaded his .38-caliber revolver into his wife and her mother while they were in Hutcheson's ICU waiting room, hitting both women in the chest. He has been charged with two counts of felony murder and is in the Walker County Jail.

Family members declined to comment Thursday night, saying they were in too much grief to talk. However, they did say the shooting occurred as other family members looked on.

Friends and co-workers of Mary and her family described a close family that kept to themselves. She was a mother of three and grandmother of five.

"She was really sweet, but Mary just wasn't outgoing," said George Goss, who led a Bible study class that Mary attended at Victory Baptist Church in Rossville.

Mary was in the pews at Victory Baptist every Sunday morning and night for several years, Goss said. Sometimes her son or mother came with her. Mary was hard of hearing and rarely talked in Sunday school, he said.

She attended Victory Baptist faithfully until 2008, when she married James Benson, Goss said. It wasn't her first marriage. After they wed, she moved and was rarely seen anymore at the church, he said.

A marriage certificate from Catoosa County shows she and James Benson married on July, 1, 2008, at the courthouse before a magistrate judge.

  • photo
    Police vehicles sit outside Hutcheson Medical Center after a shooting Friday night.
    Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Mary's family didn't approve of her relationship with Benson, said a friend of Mary's who sat next to her at church. The friend asked for anonymity.

They lost touch after Mary remarried, the woman said, but late last year, Mary came to her and told her the marriage was over and that she was leaving her husband.

Mary asked her friend to pick up an application for her apartment complex, the woman said, but she wasn't able to do that before Mary's death.

"[Last] Sunday, all of them [at Victory Baptist] were sad because everybody loved her," she said. "She always had a smile on her face."

Since 2002, Mary had worked in the Battlefield Primary School's cafeteria, making breakfast and lunch for students, school officials said.

"She was known for her slaw and tea," said Battlefield Primary Principal Geoff Rhodes.

At the front of Battlefield Primary, co-workers tied a white ribbon in honor of the well-liked woman known for going out of her way to do special things for the staff, Rhodes said.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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