Friends say Sanford businesswoman's slaying big loss to community

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SANFORD, Fla. - Cynthia McGee-Bryant, 53, a successful businesswoman and church minister, was found shot to death at her desk in her West 25th Street office.

Police were back at McGee Insurance Tuesday. Detectives are calling her death a homicide.

"I was very, very much shocked to hear that would happen to her, and wonder why someone would do that to her, because she was a very nice girl," said Edith Bryant.

Bryant was McGee's mother-in-law until 1997, when her son Reginald and McGee were divorced.  She said the two were still close friends.

"He always tells me she calls two or three times a day. They had a very good relationship," said Bryant.

Bryant said she can't understand who would want a woman so revered in her community, dead.

"She always likes to help people. She would go out to feed the needy," said Bryant.

A customer found McGee's body inside her office on West 25th street around noon Monday.

Investigators said the homicide is an isolated incident and announced on Tuesday that Richard Lawrence Barnes, 46, is a prime suspect in the case.

According to police, Barnes was seen walking into McGee's office a few minutes before several shots were heard. Witnesses then said he was seen leaving the office.

Friends said McGee leaves behind a legacy of helping those who had trouble helping themselves.

"(She was) going to convalescent homes, prisons, helping the homeless, providing food, shelter and clothes to them, and also preaching the gospel to them," said Bishop Antonio Richardson. "We heard the news, we thought perhaps it was a mistake and (were) waiting for someone to say it was another person and to our shock it wasn't."

McGee was a 20-year-member of the West Livingston Church of God in Orlando. She was a community outreach minister and confided in Richardson, her friend and pastor.

"She never came to me and said there's something going wrong in her life, and I think she would, if there was," said Richardson.

Bryant said she wants justice, soon.

"I pray to God that the person who did this, they will be caught, because she doesn't deserve it," Bryant said.