Standoff suspect now charged with murder

Bennettsville Police have charged Vondell Malachi, 25, with murder in the death of Tekeyia Easterling, 20.

Police tell us the man who held them at bay for more than 17 hours on Union Street in Bennettsville is Vondell Malachi.

Easterling's relatives tell us Malachi was her boyfriend.

We're told a news release will be sent to NewsChannel 15 in the coming hour detailing the specifics of all the charges against him.

Officers say he was involved in a standoff with the Bennettsville Police Department , Marlboro County Sheriff's Office and the State Law Enforcement Division.

The standoff ended around 11:45 Thursday morning after lasting for more than 17 hours.

Police say shortly before the standoff, Malachi led them on a 20 mile chase that started about 5 p.m. Wednesday outside Marlboro Park Hospital on Cheraw Highway in Bennettsville. Investigators say Malachi had dropped off Easterling, who was reportedly suffering from a gunshot wound, at the hospital. She died a short time later.

During the chase, they say he slowed down his car to about 10 miles per hour and dropped a 7-month-old baby boy from the car.

Relatives tell us Easterling was the baby's mother.

The baby is expected to be all right.

At some point during the chase, deputies say Malachi drove to his mother's house on Union Street and parked his car, and that's where he spent the night.

Marlboro County Sheriff Fred Knight says they employed a strategy where they cornered the suspect and were able to arrest him without incident. Knight says now their job is to piece together the events of Wednesday afternoon. He's not yet releasing the suspect's name.

There is a pending charge against Malachi for assault and battery with intent to kill in the drive-by shooting of a 66-year-old woman on Hudson Street in Bennettsville in May of 2007.

The woman had to be airlifted to a hospital, but survived the shooting.

According to Malachi's arrest record from the State Law Enforcement Division, he was arrested in June of 2010 for breach of peace.

We're told Malachi also faces charges from the Marlboro County Sheriff's Office.

We're waiting to learn the nature of those charges.