Home invader dies after elderly victims fight back in Aiken County, S.C.

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 8:29 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2021 at 4:36 PM EST
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JACKSON, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - A man has died of his injuries after being fought off by an elderly Aiken County couple whose home he tried to invade, authorities said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, new details about Monday’s case emerged with the release of an incident report by the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office.

It happened just after noon at a home on Dicks Street between Beech Island and Jackson.

“It’s a really good neighborhood. Nothing like this usually happens,” neighbor Alyssa Hill said.

Neighbors are shaken up after deputies say an intruder, later identified as 61-year-old Harold L. Runnels Jr., invaded the home of a couple on their street.

Deputies said Runnels knocked on the rear door and when it was opened, he charged his way in while wielding a large knife. He then used the knife handle to start beating the occupants, an 82-year-old man and his 79-year-old wife.

The woman fell down, injuring her index finger, and Runnels continued the attack by using the sharp point of the knife on the woman, causing a laceration to her forehead.

During the attack, the husband used the handle of his gun to defend himself and his wife, constantly striking Runnels, according to deputies.

Runnels fell to the floor, conscious but non-responsive, according to deputies.

Arriving deputies found him on the floor covered in blood.

“I’m pretty sure everyone around here feels some type of way now. Everyone’s saying make sure your doors are locked, don’t go anywhere, don’t answer the door,” Hill said.

Both Runnels and the victims were taken to hospitals.

“I was kind of worried because I don’t know who would come after an elderly couple,” Hill said. “He decided to knock on the wrong door.”

Runnels succumbed to his traumatic injuries at 10:51 p.m. Monday at Augusta University Medical Center, according to Aiken County Coroner Darryl Ables. His body will be autopsied in Newberry.

Deputies said they believe the incident was a random crime.

The couple told deputies they’d seen the man walking through the neighborhood but didn’t know the reason for the attack.

According to the incident report, Runnels lived only a block or two from the victims, on Marks Road, which could explain why they had seen him in the area.

Jim Paradis has lived around the corner for 25 years and says he knows the victims well.

“He was a lifelong military. Served all over the world,” Paradis said. “It’s a shame because they’re really, really nice people. Very sweet, honest, very helpful.”

And although people here are rattled, Paradis says in the words of his friends who were attacked: This, too, shall pass.

“We make decisions in our life every day and you know, he made the wrong one,” he said.

News 12 has chosen not to release the names of the victims out of respect for them and their family as they recover from this incident.

We are told that the couple taken to the hospital have already been released are expected to be OK.

The Aiken County Coroner’s Office and the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office are continuing with the investigation.

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