Murder victim's house destroyed by tornado

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email
Esther Baldwin

Esther Baldwin was found dead in her home in July. (Family photo)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Friday, Feb. 24, 2012

WAGENER, S.C. -- Sometimes a house is more than just a house and for the family of a Wagener murder victim, her house was all they had left of her.

Esther Baldwin was shot and killed in her home in July. She was the last victim in a murder suicide that took four lives.

On Friday, a tornado destroyed her home. Her family was emotional as they surveyed the damage.

"Very emotional, very hard," said Esther's sister, Mary Shore. "You can't come and sit on her steps anymore."

Those steps that now lie in a pile of debris in the middle of where Esther Baldwin's two-story home used to stand.

"This was the last thing we had of our sister that we could actually come to and be a part of," Shore said. "This is where she lived, this is where she died. So it's very hard to see its gone like she is, it's gone."

A violent storm, just like that violent day in July that took a part of their family.

"It's devastating," Shore said. "Another incident just rips your heart out; it's like the last piece of Esther is gone."

But her home seemed to be the only thing around that was gone.

"If you look around here, I mean you got an old abandoned trailer here, a neighbor's house, I think it tore a window out, that kind of stuff, but this house it took and just ripped it apart," said David Baldwin, Esther's brother.

Neighbors who helped build the home can't believe how easily it was destroyed. John Soloky said he helped build the house about six years ago.

"When I saw this, it's just hard to believe because I helped build this house and it was put together," Soloky said. "I'm just flabbergasted."

Soloky's wife and 13-year-old grandson were in his house about 300 feet away when the tornado hit.

"All I heard was a bunch of wind and I couldn't see anything," said Soloky's grandson, Kenneth Mcleoud.

Then the rain stopped.

"I saw a little bit of it and I said, 'Oh my God, Ms. Esther's house is gone.'"

Their house survived with very little damage, but Baldwin's didn't. Now her family is dealing with loss all over again.

And unfortunately this was not the only damage. An Aiken County sheriff's deputy said he thinks it damaged three or four homes in the area.

The tornado cut an 8-mile path about 100 feet wide. The National Weather Service is reporting that it had winds up to 130 miles per hour.

No injuries have been reported.

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