BROWN COUNTY, Ohio -- A toddler wounded in a shooting that killed her 22-year-old pregnant mother is "improving," the child's father told 9 On Your Side's Jason Law on Friday.
Investigators may be narrowing in on a suspect as test results on evidence come in, 9 On Your Side’s Tom McKee reported.
Shane Stykes was lying in bed with his 14-month-old daughter, Aubree, inside Cincinnati Children's Hospital Friday and said the toddler is breathing on her own.
"I'd say she's going to be here for a while," Shane Stykes said.
Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward for information about who killed Brittney Stykes, of Ripley. The Brown County sheriff wants tips called in (513-352-3040) or reported online at http://crime-stoppers.us/submit-a-tip/.
Police went back to the site on U.S. Route 68 Friday to look for more clues. The highway was blocked off and traffic was turned back.
Meanwhile, frightened neighbors said they were worried that a random shooter might be on the loose.
"Is this gonna happen again? I mean, is there somebody out there that is gonna be stupid and gonna shoot everybody that goes down that road?” Maxine Snyder wondered. “This girl evidently was an outstanding person, had no enemies. I just don't understand."
"It's fearful to have your child in the car to go down the road or to be in the car by yourself because you just don't know now,” said Sonya Benjamin.
Benjamin and her husband Ray have lived on Ripley Road for 30 years -- just down the street from Britney Stykes’ parents.
"One of the best, sweetest persons you ever wanted to know,” Sonya Benjamin said about Britney. “Never had a bad word to say about anybody. Always had a smile on her face."
Britney was baptized and married at the Salt Air Church of Christ, taught Sunday school there and worked with the Junior Church. Brother Bob Wickline remembered her as a lady of great Christian value.
"I can't envision a young lady like her in any way drawing this kind of evil to her. She would be 100 percent innocent of anything," Wickline said.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized, Britney’s brother, Dustin Dotson, said.
A motorist found Brittany Stykes dead in her Jeep after it crashed off the highway about a half-mile from the intersection with Gooselick Road before 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Craig Labell pulled over and called 911 when he saw their vehicle. He initially thought Stykes had simply driven her SUV into a wooded area between Georgetown and Ripley.
"There's a Jeep off the road in the woods. Looks like somebody drove off the road into the woods and they're passed out at the wheel. Looks like a girl, female in her 20s or 30s," he told a Brown County dispatcher.
Law enforcement officials responded to the call expecting to investigate a single-vehicle accident. But they found Stykes slouched over the steering wheel with multiple gunshot wounds.
She had been shot at least once in the head. Stykes was four months pregnant.
Brown County authorities said multiple bullets had been fired through the driver's side of the vehicle and passed through the passenger side.
Labell also found Aubree inside the vehicle. She was covered in blood and crying, he told the 911 operator.
"There's a baby in the car seat …The baby is bloody, but conscious,” he told the dispatcher before turning his attention back to Stykes. “I'm trying to see if the mother's breathing."
Investigators said Aubree was at least grazed by one of the bullets that contributed to the death of her mother. They said the bullet passed through Stykes, hit the driver's headrest and struck the infant in the head.
The child, who was conscious and crying at the scene, was initially transported to Southwest Regional Medical Center in Georgetown, Ohio.
Investigators spent Thursday afternoon going door-to-door throughout the Ripley community to ask residents if they had any information that could lead to the arrest of the shooting suspect.
One of the streets investigators visited was Chicken Hollow Road, where Stykes lived with Aubree and her husband, Shane, 37.
Neighbors didn't want to go on camera but told 9 On Your Side that Stykes was a friendly person, a good individual and a great mother who would wave at them and smile as they drove past her home.
Crime scene units from the Ohio Attorney General's Office and the Brown County's Sheriff's Office searched Stykes' yellow Jeep for evidence. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is also involved in the investigation.
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