'Scared the living bejeebers out of me': Neighbor describes hearing fatal gunshots

News-DemocratFebruary 11, 2014 

An unincorporated Belleville man said he was scared Sunday when he heard gunshots that eventually led to the murder of his neighbor, a 25-year-old father of two.

Darrin Hayes, of the 5900 block of Gateway Industrial Drive, died Sunday from multiple gunshot wounds, according to St. Clair County Deputy Coroner Dan Haskenhoff.

The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis continued to investigate the shooting death Monday.

Neighbor Bruce Mitzan heard the gunshots Sunday that killed Hayes, who lived above him in the apartment complex near the intersection of Frank Scott Parkway and Illinois 15 in unincorporated Belleville.

"I was here and heard five rapid shots. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang!" Mitzan said Monday, standing outside his apartment. "It scared the living begeebers out of me."

Mitzan said he lived in the apartment complex on Gateway Industrial Drive for four years.

Hayes' children, 2 years old and the other 2 months old, were in the apartment at the time of the shooting, but they were not harmed.

"Thank God for that," Mitzan said.

Yellow crime scene tape blocked off the entrance to the apartment.

Police responded to a report of shots fired in the apartment complex shortly before 1 p.m. Sunday. When sheriff's deputies arrived, they discovered the victim lying inside the apartment. He was transported to Belleville Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to Lt. Michael Hundelt, deputy commander of the Major Case Squad.

About 2 p.m., St. Clair County Sheriff Richard Watson activated the Major Case Squad, which brought in more than a dozen detectives from neighboring police agencies to assist in the investigation, Hundelt said.

Hayes was talking when Mitzan watched him rolled out on a stretcher, Mitzan said, but he heard a while later that Hayes had died.

Mitzan helped the victim's wife, Laura Hayes, clean her apartment Sunday evening. "We're all family in this building," he said.

The couple married about a week ago, Mitzan said.

Mitzan said he heard police were looking for a person of interest.

"I hope they catch him," Mitza said. "There was no cause for that. None whatsoever."

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact the Major Case Squad at 618-825-5200 or 618-825-5781or Crimestoppers at 866-371-5477.

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.