Dad: Target victim loved 'from the stars back to earth'

(WMC) - Memphis Police Department released the identity of the woman shot in the Target parking lot on Monday afternoon.

Torhonda Cathey, 33, later died at the hospital.

"Some people in your life are just real special," her father, Gurnett Cathey said through sniffles. "Hard to explain but ... God does things for a reason."

According to her family, Torhonda Cathey graduated from Independence High School in Tate County and then got an accounting degree from Mississippi State University. She worked for Shelby County School District at the main headquarters on Hollywood Street in the business office. She is the mother of an 8-year-old son.

During her lunch hour on Monday afternoon, Cathey went to Target at 601 Colonial Road. As she was getting into her car to leave, she was shot three times, once in the leg and twice in the back at point black range, according to eyewitnesses. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital in critical condition.

Cathey was pronounced dead at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The shooter sped away from the scene in a white 2014 Ford Focus bearing Louisiana tag N365353, which sources say was a rental car. An eyewitness ran after the suspect and took cell phone pictures of the car.

Memphis police are still searching for the man they believe killed Cathey. After a five-hour standoff outside Ellis' house, police came out empty handed. Police believe it is her ex-boyfriend, Ronald Ellis, who is a Memphis firefighter.

Investigators issued a warrant for Ellis' arrest on a first-degree murder charge.

Ellis was due in court in Olive Branch Tuesday morning after an October 8, 2013 arrest on a charge of malicious mischief over $500, domestic violence-simple assault, stalking, and driving on expired tags. Records list the victim in that case is listed Torhonda Cathey.

According to his personnel file with Memphis Fire Department, Cathey filed a police report against Ellis because he had been following her all over the city all day, and then he followed her to her apartment. Investigators say Ellis approached her car on foot, started an argument, and kicked the back passenger door, which left a dent and an imprint of his shoe, all while Cathey's 8-year-old son was in the car.

Ellis was suspended from work for 240 hours without pay, costing him $4,531.37.

MFD records show Ellis was hired on at Memphis fire Department on August 11, 2003, and that he had previous contact with police on 11/5/03, 2/21/04, 7/12/04, and 7/6/07 for various domestic incidents involving two other women.

On April 14, 2007, Ellis was arrested for a March 13, 2007 incident in which he shoved a fellow firefighter/paramedic in her upper body with his forearm during an argument over job duties.

For that incident, he was suspended 72 hours without pay, costing him $1,182.44.

In a letter to Ellis informing him of his discipline, city officials wrote they were "deeply concerned with the multiple incidents involving women which has resulted in alleged physical contact and in the involvement of MPD. In addition, it now appears that your behavior has extended from you personal life into the workplace."

As of Tuesday, MFD Director Alvin Benson said Ellis was on leave without pay. He was scheduled to work Tuesday morning at fire station 9.

"We express our condolences to the family of Ms. Cathey for their tragic, tragic, tragic loss," Benson said during the conference. "In the past 24 hours, I guess I can say that my emotions have gone from shock to outrage to shock to sadness to bewilderment—a number of things."

MFD has made no contact with Ellis since the shooting.

If you have any information that may help investigators find Ronald Ellis, you are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH.

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