Ida Hernandez Foster was asleep early Friday when gunfire erupted in the St. Paul apartment next door to hers, critically injuring her sister, Anita Sprosty, and killing Sprosty’s two daughters and ex-husband.

Hernandez Foster said her granddaughter, Eva, who lives with her, was the first to see the aftermath of the shooting and a man running away with a toddler in his arms.

“She heard the gunshots and went out the door to see what was going on,” a visibly shaken Hernandez Foster said Saturday afternoon.

Hernandez Foster said that the 20-year-old man suspected of killing her family members was involved in an intense custody dispute with one of the slain young women over the 18-month-old girl. Accounts from her and others who knew the family reveal the night’s carnage as a sprawling act of domestic violence.

St. Paul police continue to investigate the killings, which took place about 1 a.m. Friday in the 1600 block of English Street in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood. The suspect, Jeffrey Jemaile Taylor, was found dead near the scene Friday. His half-brother, Jeffery Arkis Taylor, 19, was arrested while hiding in a shed with the little girl and is expected to be charged Monday with aiding and abetting murder, attempted murder and kidnapping. It is not clear what role the second man had in Friday night’s events.

Police have not said how the first suspect died. They and public records have offered different spellings of his first name.

Sprosty lived in the apartment where the killings occurred with her daughters Maria, 19, and Olivia, 17, and with Maria’s daughter, Cheyenne, over whom the custody dispute was raging. Both teenagers were killed, as was Sprosty’s ex-husband, Wade McIntosh.

McIntosh had been staying with the family since February, according to Hernandez Foster’s daughter, Felicia Hernandez. McIntosh and Sprosty had divorced 10 years ago and maintained a friendly relationship, and he was back in St. Paul to pick up some belongings.

But he was also there to look after the family following recent arguments between Maria and Jeffrey J. Taylor, Cheyenne’s father.

As part of a mutually agreed-upon arrangement, Cheyenne would stay with Taylor for a couple of days a week, Hernandez Foster said. But the family was looking to have the courts arrange a formal custody agreement, she said.

“[Wade] decided to stay because Maria was having a lot of arguments with Jeffrey,” Hernandez Foster said. “He said, ‘I’ll stay for a while to help with the girls.’ ”

Maria McIntosh and Taylor had been arguing at the complex just hours before the shooting, she said.

Hernandez said other family members now are trying to gain access to Cheyenne, who is in protective custody.

“Our lives will never be the same again,” she said. “I want to make sure that the investigation prevails and that we find all the details of the madness that happened.”

‘A lot of prayer chains’

Maria McIntosh graduated from AGAPE High School after transferring to the St. Paul School District from Roseville Area Schools in 11th grade, and Olivia McIntosh attended Face to Face Academy in St. Paul, school officials said.

Darius Husain, director of Face to Face, said Friday that teachers and students at Olivia’s school are “devastated.”

Wade McIntosh, who had struggled with substance abuse, recently had progressed through treatment and become a source of support to others struggling with addiction, said Paul Marzahn, a senior pastor with Crossroads Church and a board member of Life Rebuilders, a transitional housing program for adults after addiction treatment or incarceration.

Marzahn spent part of Saturday afternoon visiting with McIntosh’s friends from the program, recalling happy memories to help them cope with their anger and grief.

“It helps them [to be] thinking positive thoughts, if you will, and about the way that God had used him in their lives,” he said. “It reminds them that his life wasn’t a total waste, because he made such a difference for them.”

Later, Marzahn went to Regions Hospital in St. Paul to see Sprosty and her family. Marzahn said she was conscious and alert Friday but sedated on Saturday when he prayed in her hospital room.

The extended family is large — Sprosty had eight siblings — and hopeful she can recover, Marzahn said. “Got a lot of prayer chains going out, so there’s a real sense that she could make it through this,” he said.

‘They were good people’

Paul Sprosty, the owner of the apartment complex, is also Anita Sprosty’s father-in-law. He said he had never seen anything like this in his 20 years operating the building, and will clean and organize the apartment before anyone returns to it.

“I can’t let them come back in and see what that looks like,” he said. “They were good people; this shouldn’t have happened.”

Family members have created two GoFundMe pages seeking help with funeral costs and Sprosty’s recovery.

The neighborhood was quiet Saturday afternoon, with cars driving down English Street and neighbors working in their front yards.

On a street pole outside of the apartment building, a few candles, flowers and balloons shifted in the wind. A candle bearing an image of Jesus flickered right outside the door of Anita Sprosty’s apartment.

 

miguel.otarola@startribune.com 612-673-4753 jeremy.olson@startribune.com 612-673-7744