Just a day before he was supposed to start psychiatric treatment for mental illness, James Vinton convinced his wife to take him to her mother’s tax business in downtown Fort Mill under the pretense of an apology.
But that was not his real plan. This was a premeditated murder-suicide that was supposed to take out his wife’s mother and sister for doing him wrong, according to the findings of a Fort Mill Police investigation.
In fact, James had pre-written a lengthy suicide note that included directions for his funeral.
James was done trying to control his rage against his wife’s family. He even texted his own sister than he was trying to kill his mother-in-law Deborah Buchanan as well as his sister-in-law Crispin Rae Metcalf, who were working inside H&R Block on Main Street, police say. He called other relatives the morning of the shooting too.
In Part 1 of the Sun’s reporting, learn what the final police report concluded about the events of Aug. 31:
Around 1:13 p.m. that Monday, James Alexander Vinton murdered Deborah Elaine Buchanan and tried to murder Crispin Metcalf at the H&R Block office at 239 Main Street in Fort Mill.
During an interview with Bevin Vinton, the wife of James Vinton, Bevin explained that her husband was scheduled to begin in-patient psychiatric treatment for mental illness on Sept. 1 in Columbia, S.C.
The police investigation leaves unanswered questions about what his family knew about the killing. But the agency’s extensive review provides the key motive behind the murder on Main Street.
Bevin informed detectives that her husband was delusional and experienced frequent bouts of rage. He believed Bevin’s family didn’t treat her appropriately and was angry with Deborah and Crispin and their misperceived ill treatment of his wife.
James was specifically upset with Deborah over the belief that she withheld a heirloom shotgun from James. It was James’ mistaken belief that the shotgun was given to him by Bevin’s deceased father. According to Bevin, James believed Deborah was dishonoring her dead husband by not allowing him to have the shotgun. The shotgun, according to Bevin, was stolen by another family member around 2017 and pawned.
On the evening of Aug. 30, James asked his wife to take him to Deborah’s place of work at H&R Block in Fort Mill the next day, so he could apologize to her in an effort to get Bevin’s job back.
Unbeknownst to Bevin, James sent a text message to his sister, Jennifer Millman-Vinton at 7:49 a.m. on Aug. 31 stating, “Mom and dad can tell you, I lost my shit and am trying to kill Debbie and Crispin.”
James went on to explain in a subsequent text message sent to Jennifer at 7:50 a.m. stating, “You would have been so proud of me Jennifer I did recon, I did psychological warfare. I turn them into the IRS, to H&R Block. I slit Debbie’s tires and painted dishonor on her car and her garage.”
James was referring to two separate incidents where Deborah’s tires were slashed and “Dishonor” was written on her vehicle at H&R Block and “Dishonor” was painted on her garage door at her residence in Charlotte. These incidents occurred between Aug. 24-28.
In a later interview, Jennifer told police that she thought her brother’s text was a typographical error. Additional records of phone calls on the morning of the murder show that James called other family members. But subsequent attempts by Detective Suchenski to speak with James’ father, Bruce Vinton, and his brother, Michael Vinton, were unsuccessful. The family obtained legal counsel and declined to speak, according to the police report.
According to Bevin, she drove James to H&R Block in Fort Mill around 1 p.m. on Aug. 31. The couple went into Deborah’s office and closed the door.
Crispin was present during that time and was seated at her desk in the hallway outside of Deborah’s Office. According to statements, James apologized to Deborah. He then asked Deborah about the contents of her will to which Deborah responded that it was not pertinent to the conversation.
James was asked to leave the office while Deborah and Bevin discussed the will and other matters. During the conversation, James came back into the office and informed Bevin that they had to leave. But Bevin said she wasn’t ready to leave yet, at which point James turned his attention to Deborah.
According to Bevin, James told Deborah, “Since you answered my question wrong,” or words to that effect, and reached inside his black book bag and cocked his revolver.
James then removed his silver in color 7 shot .357 magnum revolver from his bookbag and pointed it at Deborah. Bevin stated that she started yelling and she attempted to grab the revolver. But James shoved her back into the chair in the corner of the office, which was heard by Crispin in the hallway. Bevin stated that James shot Deborah with the revolver at close range across her desk and Deborah fell to the floor. James then removed a Springfield .40 cal pistol from his bag and walked into the hallway.
Crispin, who was by her desk at the time, observed James walk out of Deborah’s office and point the revolver at her. Crispin stated that she began walking backwards toward the door. James fired several shots at her, striking the all and back door to the business. Crispin ran outside and called 911.
Bevin stated that James walked back toward a nearby office, sat in the chair, looked at her with an evil expression, placed the .40 caliber pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Bevin stated that after James shot himself, she ran outside and also called 911.
“Given the aforementioned facts and circumstances, it is believed that the murder of Deborah Buchanan by James Vinton was a premeditated act committed by James Vinton alone,” the police investigation says. “It is also believed that following the murder of Deborah Buchanan, James Vinton acted alone in taking his own life. This case will be closed.”
End of Part 1.