Before explaining the tangled “love triangle” that prosecutors say led to the fatal shooting of a Rock Hill man last month, Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson made one thing clear about the case: “There really are no clean hands.”
What followed during Thursday’s bond hearing were allegations of infidelity, domestic abuse and harassment that culminated with the Oct. 17 shooting of 30-year-old Michael Tyson Dilda in his Rock Hill home, lawyers say. Richard David Estes, 32, is charged with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
Thompson said Dilda had been in a long-term relationship with Christina Estes before she married Richard Estes, but that she and her husband had been going through divorce proceedings. The morning of Oct. 17, Christina Estes went to Dilda’s home on Oleen Cove Road to watch a movie and cook breakfast for him.
“The defendant apparently either followed her there or went there to see if she had gone to his residence,” Thompson said.
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After Estes saw his wife’s van at the home, Thompson said, he walked up the stairs to the door of Dilda’s apartment. That’s where prosecutors say he allegedly shot his wife’s lover point-blank with a .357 Magnum, the bullet severing Dilda’s heart and lodging in the door frame.
“Initially, Mrs. Estes did not tell the truth about what had happened,” Thompson said. “She said she had stopped by and found him like that. However, she admitted that she had been at the residence when this occurred. She said she was back in the bedroom and did not see what had happened but had heard the gunshot.”
Estes filed multiple police reports during the summer about harassing text messages he was receiving from Dilda, Thompson said. In the messages, Dilda reportedly was harassing Estes about having an affair with his wife and even sent Estes a nude photo of his wife.
Estes made statements to multiple people indicating that he wished to harm Dilda, Thompson said, even leaving a voicemail on his wife’s phone saying he knew the general area in which Dilda lived and that “he’s going to pay.”
“There have been numerous people that have come to the police and told them about the fact that the defendant had gone to them on several occasions, talked to them about his situation ... and that he wanted to kill the victim in his case,” Thompson said.
The prosecutor acknowledged that Estes, who has no prior criminal record, called 911 about an hour after the shooting and later turned himself in, providing a statement in which he said “he may have shot someone, but it was in self defense.” Still, Thompson maintained that Estes poses a danger to the community.
Defense attorney Jim Boyd wouldn’t comment on specifics about the claim of self defense.
“I will say that I believe my client has a valid defense on this, and that we intend to vigorously contest these charges,” he said.
Boyd said Christina Estes described Dilda as abusive, and that Dilda had an extensive criminal history that showed a pattern of abuse.
“She describes him as the type of individual who would threaten her to be with him,” Boyd said. “Or, if she didn’t do what he said, he was going to harm family members of hers.”
‘He’s never hurt me’
Christina Estes made no remark about the alleged abuse while addressing the court Thursday, but told the judge she wasn’t afraid of Estes.
“He’s always showed me love and kindness,” she said. “He’s never put his hands on me, he’s never hurt me. We’ve never even fought; we’ve never even fussed. Ever.”
Christina Estes’ mother described Estes as a good man and a good father, and said Dilda assaulted her daughter repeatedly while they were together.
“Mr. Dilda tormented him for five months, the same way he tormented my daughter,” she said. She added that their family has received death threats since the shooting.
More than two dozen friends and family members of Estes, including his church pastor, filled several pews behind him in the courtroom. They shared teary-eyed hugs after the hearing but declined to speak with reporters.
Both of Estes’ eyes were swollen and bruised Thursday. After granting him a $50,000 bond, Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III said he was just as concerned about Estes’ well-being as he was about the community.
“I understand he’s been beat up since he’s been incarcerated,” Hayes said, “by somebody in revenge for this event.”
Further details about that alleged assault or any resulting charges were not available late Thursday.
Estes will be under house arrest and cannot possess any firearms if he is released on bond.