Police say 19-year-old man gunned down ex-girlfriend's mom; suspect's relative claims he was home

PUYALLUP, Wash. --  A 46-year-old mother was gunned down on her street in front of her home. Police say her daughter's ex-boyfriend pulled the trigger.

“I heard three gunshots; I told my wife,'That’s not firecrackers,'” neighbor Jack Peters said.

When neighbors rushed outside at about 8:15 a.m. Monday, they saw 46-year-old Teresa Ryan lying in the street, where she had been shot multiple times, and her 5-year-old daughter running for cover.

“When I came out, I saw her (the girl) running from her car to the neighbor’s house to get help,” Gabe Colbern said.

Police say the 5-year-old witnessed her mother’s murder from the back seat of the family’s Ford Explorer.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department says their suspect is the 19-year-old ex-boyfriend of the victim's daughter. Investigators say he confronted Ryan as she returned home and shot her as she stepped out of her SUV in the middle of the street.

“Apparently the breakup was not going well; he took exception to that,” Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Jerry Bates said.

The grandfather of the suspect told Q13 News on Monday night that his grandson is innocent.

Richard Nelson said, "He was here all day. He’s a good kid. He’s had problems but he’s not that bad of a kid."

Nelson also explained that he has several guns in his home but he believes it's impossible for his grandson to take one without him knowing.

Nelson said, "I've got a 9 mm, a .22 pistol, five shotguns and three rifles and all locked up in a gun safe."

A close friend of the victim's family says they've been having problems with the suspect for weeks; they say the family's home has been broken into and the teenage daughter's car vandalized recently. The family suspected the ex-boyfriend.

“I am just devastated for the family,” Colbern said.

Investigators say the 19-year-old suspect broke into the home, killing the family's dog before he killed Teresa Ryan.

“Might have been looking for other victims,” Bates said.

“Who knows how many other people would have been shot if they were home,” Colbern said.

Neighbors say the victim’s teenage daughter came home right after paramedics rushed her mom to the hospital.

“Makes you wonder what’s going on in the world right now, especially something like this hitting close to home,” neighbor Chuck Pleinis said.

Neighbors are shocked but relieved to hear that the suspect has been arrested. They worry most about what the 5-year-old girl had to see.

“I can’t imagine what that poor girl will have to deal with for the rest of her life -- unreal,” Colbern said.

​Colbern added that he tried to run after the suspect but lost him in the woods. Other witnesses reported seeing the suspect running down the street with a gun in his hand.

Police were able to track down the suspect in Tacoma shortly after the shooting.