University of South Carolina comes to terms with on-campus murder-suicide
On Feb. 5, Professor Raja Fayad, an anatomy and physiology instructor at the University of South Carolina, was shot by his late ex-wife, Sunghee Kwon.
Fayad’s body was found that afternoon in the school’s research building, only blocks from the state’s capitol and governor’s office with multiple gunshot wounds to his upper body. Kwan’s autopsy confirmed that she committed suicide, shooting herself in the stomach with the 9 mm gun found near the bodies. There were no witnesses to the shooting, however, as it was isolated to a small laboratory on the fourth floor of the building.
Though the shooting was in a contained laboratory, the school put students on lockdown, taking over social media and Television to inform them of the situation and keep them safe.
The reason for the shooting is unknown. Prof. Fayad and Kwon had divorced a few years ago, but had continued living together for reasons unknown until a few months ago, when their separation was finalized by living in different places. Kwon continued to live in their home in Lexington County but Fayad had moved into a long-term hotel room with a family member.
Only a few weeks before, Prof. Fayad and Kwon had been involved in a domestic situation where officers of the university intervened. On Jan. 12, USC Police were called in to respond to a call made by Prof. Fayad. Kwon had arrived at USC and—according to Fayad—she “had no business being there,” although she was a student. The report stated that Kwon was just trying to find the status of her application, as she’d recently applied to the Public Health PhD program, but because Prof. Fayad felt uncomfortable, Kwon was instructed to leave and not contact him. The officers also said that Fayad confided that Kwon showed up in his classroom often and unannounced, making his students concerned. Prof. Fayad felt worried that she would damage his career, as she emailed him incessantly, emails he later forwarded to the police.
Prof. Fayad was an associate professor of applied physiology who served as the graduate director of the University’s Arnold School of Public Health. Professor Larry Durstine, who helped recruit Prof. Fayad to USC said that the deceased was, “bright, caring, and sympathetic toward colleagues and students.” The university held a candlelit vigil on Friday, organized by student leaders while those in the college of public health were given the day off to grieve.