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Robert Kenneth STEWART

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


The Carthage nursing home shooting
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Shooting rampage
Number of victims: 8
Date of murders: March 29, 2009
Date of arrest: Same day (wounded by police)
Date of birth: September 12, 1963
Victims profile: Jerry Avant Jr., 39 (nurse) / Louise DeKler, 98 / Lillian Dunn, 89 / Tessie Garner, 75 / John Walter Goldston, 78 / Bessie Hedrick, 78 / Margaret Johnson, 89 / Jesse Vernon Musser, 88
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Carthage, Moore County, North Carolina, USA
Status: Sentenced to 142 years to 179 1/2 years in prison on September 2, 2011
 
 

 
 

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The Carthage nursing home shooting was a mass murder that occurred on March 29, 2009, when a gunman opened fire at the Pinelake Health and Rehab nursing home in Carthage, North Carolina.

The shooter, 45-year-old Robert Stewart, killed eight people and wounded another two before being shot and apprehended by a responding police officer. Stewart's estranged wife, a nurse at the nursing home and the apparent main target, survived the shooting unharmed, as she was hiding in a bathroom in the Alzheimer ward of the building, which is secured by passcode-protected doors.

Stewart, who is being held in North Carolina’s maximum security Central Prison in Raleigh, was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder. On September 3, 2011 he was found guilty of eight counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to 142 years to 179 1/2 years in prison. The defense had argued that Stewart was under the influcene of Ambien during the shooting, leaving him unable to control his actions.

Shooting

Robert Stewart, dressed in a bib overall, arrived at the parking lot of the nursing home just before 10:00 a.m., where he shot several times at his wife's car, shattering its windows. He also shot at Michael Lee Cotten, a visitor, in his car, when he pulled into the parking lot, and hit him in the left shoulder. Cotten, who later stated that Stewart was "very calm, very deliberate" when he fired at him, managed to run into the building and warn the people inside of the gunman. Police received the first emergency calls at approximately 10:00 a.m. and the only police officer on duty, Justin Garner, was dispatched to the scene about one minute later.

Leaving a .22 caliber rifle atop a Jeep Cherokee, Stewart entered the nursing home armed with a handgun and a shotgun and went down the hall apparently searching for his wife, Wanda Neal, who had been reassigned to the Alzheimer unit that morning. Upon realizing that his wife wasn't where she usually worked he headed to the area for Alzheimer's patients which was secured by passcode-protected doors. As he walked through the hallways of the nursing home, Stewart killed seven residents, two of them in their wheelchairs, while the staff tried to bring the patients to safety. One nurse, Jerry Avant, was also shot and killed when he tried to stop the gunman.

Stewart was finally stopped by officer Garner in the hallway at about 10:05 a.m. After refusing several orders to drop his weapon, Stewart lowered his shotgun and fired a shot at Garner, hitting him in the leg and foot. Garner returned fire and hit the gunman in the shoulder, incapacitating him. When the shooting was over, six people were dead and five others, including Stewart, were taken to a nearby hospital. Two of the wounded died the same day. In the hospital Stewart told a nurse that he had taken six “nerve pills” and did not remember anything about the shooting.

Victims

  • Jerry Avant Jr., 39, nurse

  • Louise DeKler, 98

  • Lillian Dunn, 89

  • Tessie Garner, 75

  • John Walter Goldston, 78

  • Bessie Hedrick, 78

  • Margaret Johnson, 89

  • Jesse Vernon Musser, 88

Perpetrator

Robert Kenneth Wayne Stewart was born in Robeson County on September 12, 1963. When he was a young boy, his family moved to Eastwood in Moore County. His father was a house painter, and his mother worked at an office of a paving company in Pinebluff. After finishing middle school in Aberdeen he attended Pinecrest High School, but dropped out before graduating. Among his peers Stewart was known as a a quiet loner with a very bad temper every now and then.

At the age of 18, Stewart married for the first time, though his marriage lasted only for a few months. In 1983 he married then 17-year-old Wanda Gay Neal, but this marriage also failed within three years, due to Stewart's extreme possessiveness, his drinking habits and his violent temper. Wanda Neal's mother Margaret Neal later stated: "He had a rage, it would just explode over everything. He would be good and then something would just set him off." However, both Margaret Neal and Wanda Neal's 14-year-old daughter Jamie said that, as far as they knew, Stewart had never hit his wife. In 1986 Stewart married again, though he still carried a torch for his former wife. According to his third wife, Sue Griffin, Stewart would often compare her to Wanda Neal and complain that "Wanda doesn't do it like that."

Stewart worked as a house painter and had his own painting business, but had filed twice for bankruptcy. He had been out of work for over a year before the shooting, after injuring his back and leg. He served six years in the National Guard and never rose above Private rank before receiving an honorable discharge. In 1995 he joined the Clay Road Farm Hunt Club in Moore County, where he soon alienated the other members because of his drinking problem and his temper. He was eventually thrown out of the hunting club, after threatening Larry Allred, one of its founders, stating that "he wasn't scared of no damn Allred. He'd cut Larry Allred's guts out and watch."

In 2001, after 15 years of marriage to Sue Griffin, Stewart divorced again and returned to Wanda Neal. Promising her he would change, stop drinking and treat her well they married a second time in June 2002.

In the end Stewart wouldn't let his wife go anywhere alone. Wanda Neal finally left her husband three weeks prior to the shooting, after he put a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. After his wife had left him, Stewart began calling her family, sometimes at 2 or 3 a.m., claiming there was an emergency and he needed to see Wanda and her parents. He also tried to contact his former wife, Sue Griffin, through her family, telling them that he was suffering from prostate cancer, that he was preparing to “go away” and “was planning on leaving town to visit places he hadn’t seen.” According to Mack Hancock, who had seen him in the last week before the shooting, Stewart seemed very depressed, saying that “everything had gone to hell."


Robert Stewart guilty of 2nd-degree murder, sentenced to life in prison

By Michael Zennie - FayObserver.com

September 4, 2011

CARTHAGE - Robert Stewart will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing eight people at the Pinelake Health & Rehabilitation Center in March 2009.

Stewart was sentenced Saturday to serve at least 142 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of eight counts of second-degree murder in the March 29, 2009, shooting rampage. Seven elderly residents and a nurse at the Carthage nursing home were killed.

The judge imposed the maximum sentence - 15 years, nine months to 19 years, eight months - for each count of murder, with the terms to run consecutively.

The jury deliberated for almost 10 hours over Friday and Saturday before reaching its verdict.

The courtroom was silent as Moore County Superior Court Judge James Webb read the jury's findings in the first count of murder, that of 98-year-old Louise DeKler.

Family members of the victims, some of whom have attended the trial every day since jury selection began July 11 in Albemarle, sobbed and stared at Stewart on the other side of the courtroom.

Stewart looked at the floor, his face blank. It's the same look he had on his face for the duration of the trial.

The jury found Stewart not guilty of two counts of attempted first-degree murder against police Cpl. Justin Garner and Michael Cotton, a visitor who was shot.

Jurors found Stewart guilty of each of the other seven charges against him, including assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

Immediately after the judge read the jury's verdict, he moved into the sentencing phase.

Assistant District Attorney Peter Strickland called family members of the victims to testify.

Connie Hedrick Evans, the oldest daughter of 79-year-old Bessie Hedrick, choked back tears and tried to maintain her composure as she testified about her mother, who was killed in her bed.

"I've not missed a day in this courtroom for two and a half years. They said this will help with closure. This is not closure," Evans said.

Then, looking directly at Stewart from the witness box she said: "Your mother is sitting behind you. And supposedly you don't have a relationship."

She paused, words failing her.

"You're the one. You're the one."

Linda DeKler Feola told the judge that she wishes she could be the mother that DeKler was.

DeKler, who was 98, was lively and active. She loved to gamble in Atlantic City, N.J. - she played double slots.

"On Sunday, that man killed her like a roach. And that man will not be going where my mom is. I've heard tell that he was saved. Uh-uh, not in this world," Feola said.

Stewart did not speak in his own defense. Instead, defense lawyer Jonathan Megerian told the judge that Stewart remembers nothing of the shootings but is truly sorry for his actions.

His lawyers filed notice they plan to appeal the verdict.

Ambien defense

In all, Stewart's sentence totals 142 years to 179 1/2 years in prison.

Many family members said they were upset Stewart was not convicted of first-degree murder. But they said they were relieved he will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

"If that's not first-degree murder, I don't know what first-degree murder is," Evans said outside of court.

Strickland, the prosecutor, said he still believed Stewart's crimes warranted the death penalty and was somewhat disappointed with the second-degree verdict.

If jurors had convicted Stewart of first-degree murder, he could have faced the death penalty.

In five weeks of testimony, the trial did not focus on whether Stewart committed the killings at the nursing home where his estranged wife worked. Instead, defense lawyers turned the case into an argument over whether he was legally responsible for the crimes.

The cornerstone of Stewart's defense was based on the burgeoning scientific and legal evidence surrounding side effects of the popular sleep aid Ambien.

Stewart had been taking the drug for two years, and defense experts testified he took a high dose of it the night before the shootings.

Megerian and Franklin Wells, both public defenders, employed a rarely used defense called "automatism" to argue that Stewart was not in control of his actions when he committed the shootings.

A Raleigh forensic psychiatrist hired by the defense testified that Stewart was "sleepwalking" during the shootings because he was suffering the side effects of Ambien.

Ambien has been reported to cause strange behavior in a small number of users - from sleep-driving to sleep-eating.

A toxicologist testified about a case of a candy store owner who got out of bed, drove to his shop, unlocked the door and was found inside gorging on candy - all while asleep.

But prosecutors argued that the evidence showed that Stewart clearly planned the shootings in an effort to retaliate against his estranged wife, Wanda Neal, who left him two weeks prior.

In order for him to carry out the shootings, Stewart would have had to take four guns from his home, three of them from a locked safe, as well as multiple rounds of three kinds of ammunition.

He then drove 20 minutes from his home outside of Robbins to the nursing home in Carthage.

Once there, he found his wife's PT Cruiser in the parking lot and fired multiple rounds into the windows and the headrest.

Prosecutors said these were complex actions that could only have been carried out by a man on a mission.

Several notes and letters that Stewart wrote in the days before the shootings were among the evidence that prosecutors pointed to for signs of premeditation.

In a journal entry dated eight days before the rampage, Stewart wrote about how he thought he had prostate cancer and how he "hurt deep" because his wife left him. He said he was considering suicide.

"I thought about taking a lot of people with me, but I don't care to do that," he wrote.

But prosecutors had a high bar to clear to obtain a conviction.

Stewart's lawyers successfully argued that the judge should shift the burden of proof for the Ambien defense to prosecutors.

This meant that if the jury had any reasonable doubt Stewart wasn't in control of his actions, they had to acquit him of the charges.

Witnesses described Stewart walking through the hallways of the nursing home shortly after 10 a.m. on March 29 with a 12-gauge pump shotgun, shooting seven patients in their beds or wheelchairs at close range.

He pursued 39-year-old nurse Jerry Avant, who was trying to push patients out of harm's way, before cornering him in a service hallway and shooting him at least two times, according to testimony.

Avant survived his wounds, which included a broken femur, long enough to be taken to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, where he died in surgery.

The other victims were: 89-year-old Lillian Dunn, 75-year-old Tessie Garner, 78-year-old John Goldston, 89-year-old Margaret Johnson and 88-year-old Jesse Musser.

Stewart's rampage was ended by a single bullet from Carthage police Cpl. Justin Garner, who testified that he told Stewart multiple times to drop his shotgun. When Stewart swung the weapon toward Garner, the officer fired his .40-caliber Glock pistol once from 40 yards away, hitting Stewart under the shoulder. Stewart fired his shotgun at almost exactly the same time and several small lead pellets struck Garner in the leg and foot.


Officials probe role of relationship in NC rampage

By Mike Baker - Guardian.co.uk

March 31, 2009

CARTHAGE, N.C. (AP) - A painter charged with killing eight people at a North Carolina nursing home never got over his estranged wife who worked there, according to a different woman he married during a break in the rocky relationship.

Robert Stewart is accused of killing seven patients and a nurse at Pinelake Health and Rehab nursing home while his estranged wife, identified by a neighbor as Wanda Luck, was working there Sunday. She was not among those killed.

The two had recently split, said Carthage Police Chief Chris McKenzie, and court documents show the breakup was part of an on-again, off-again relationship that spread over many years and bookended other failed marriages.

Even after they divorced in the mid-1980s and married other people, Stewart still talked about Luck, said Sue Griffin, who was Stewart's wife for 15 years before he and Luck reunited and married each other -again- in June 2002.

Griffin said Stewart would often compare her and Luck, complaining that, "Wanda doesn't do it like that."

"I'd look at him and say, 'Well, I ain't Wanda,'" Griffin said in an interview Monday. "As time went on, I could tell he wasn't quite over her."

Griffin said in an earlier interview that Stewart had recently started telling family he had cancer and was preparing for a long trip and to "go away."

Authorities declined to elaborate on the role the relationship between Stewart and Luck may have played in the rampage, but the prosecutor who charged the 45-year-old suspect with murder left no doubt the attack had a purpose.

"We can share this: This was not a random act of violence," said Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger.

A day after the shootings, Krueger said authorities didn't plan to release much more information about Stewart or the case outside of the courtroom. Several search warrants police executed in the hours after the shooting were sealed, and Krueger would not say why.

But it appeared the relationship between Stewart -nicknamed "Pee Wee" by his hunting buddies because, one said, he's about 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds- and Luck was tied in some way to the rampage.

"We're certainly looking into the fact that it may be domestic-related," McKenzie said.

According to marriage records in Moore County, a 19-year-old Stewart married 17-year-old Wanda Gay Neal in July 1983. They divorced three years later, and both were involved in several other marriages before they reunited and married a second time in June 2002. McKenzie said he believed the couple had recently separated again.

One of Luck's former husbands, Joseph Ferguson, said Monday that their union lasted less than two years. He said Luck talked about Stewart, whom he later met, calling him a "normal guy" and saying he was shocked by Sunday's events.

"I don't want to get into details about their marriage, but it was rocky, I can tell you that," Ferguson said.

Several telephone numbers for Luck and her family were disconnected, and a knock at the door was unanswered at an address in nearby Robbins. A neighbor of the couple's home in Carthage, Mark Barnett, said Luck was "a good person" who was born and raised in the North Carolina Sandhills community.

"I can't even imagine what she's going through," Barnett said.

Stewart made his first court appearance Monday on eight counts of first-degree murder and a single charge of felony assault of a law enforcement officer. His court-appointed attorney, John Megerian of Asheboro, declined to comment because he hadn't spoken to his client.

McKenzie wasn't aware of criminal activity in Stewart's past, and records in Moore County show the only charges on his record stem from a drunken-driving case in 1988. He was involved in a few minor civil complaints, including a 2002 order that he surrender $1,103 after a woman complained his business failed at repainting some wrought iron furniture.

Authorities said Stewart arrived at Pinelake, a 110-bed nursing home and care center for patients with Alzheimer's disease, around 10 a.m. Sunday. McKenzie said he was armed with more than one weapon, and witnesses said he was shooting both a "deer gun" and a shotgun.

Several people inside the home called 911, pleading for help: "There's a man in here with a double-barrel shotgun shooting people! White man with a beard."

The shooting spree was ended by 25-year-old Master Officer Justin Garner. McKenzie said Garner, a training officer with more than four years on the Carthage force and a past winner of the department's officer of the year award, didn't wait for backup.

"If that's not heroism, I don't know what is," McKenzie said. "He had to go to all the way through the facility to encounter this individual. It would be hard for me to believe he didn't (hear gunfire)."

Stewart wounded Garner three times in the leg as they traded gunfire, and the single shot Garner fired from his .40-caliber pistol hit Stewart in the chest. He was being held Monday at the state's Central Prison in Raleigh.

Authorities identified the victims as Pinelake residents Tessie Garner, 88; Lillian Dunn, 89; Jessie Musser, 88; Bessie Hendrick, 78; John Goldston, 78; Margaret Johnson, 89; Louise Decker, 98; and nurse Jerry Avent. Tessie Garner wasn't related to the police officer who ended the rampage.

Frank Feola, 63, gathered the belongings of his mother-in-law, whom he identified as Louise DeKler. As he packed up a table and a collage of photos, Feola called Stewart an "animal" who doesn't deserve the death penalty.

"That would be too easy," he said. "I feel like I'm walking around in a dream, that somebody could do something like this."

Musser had lived at Pinelake for only six weeks, said his son-in-law, Jim Foster, 47, of Aberdeen. He said the man had Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and was blind, deaf and used a wheelchair. Foster said the family was now trying to figure out how to tell Musser's wife, who has dementia and lives at the same facility, that her husband is dead.

"She was upset that they didn't bring him to see her yesterday," Foster said. "I don't know how we're going to break it to her. You got a clue?"


Alleged Gunman’s Wife Worked at Nursing Home

By Shaila Dewan - The New York Times

March 30, 2009

CARTHAGE, N.C. — The man accused of killing eight people on Sunday morning at a nursing home here may have chosen the building as his target because his estranged wife was working there when the shootings occurred, officials said on Monday.

“We’re certainly looking into the fact that it may be domestic-related,” said Chief Chris T. McKenzie of the Carthage Police Department.

The link is the first investigators have revealed between the man, whom they identified as Robert Stewart, and the site of the rampage, although officials declined to discuss a precise motive.

“When can one look into the heart and mind of another person and truly know what they think?” Maureen Krueger, the Moore County district attorney, asked at an afternoon news conference. “The information on motive is incomplete at this time. We can share this: this was not a random act of violence.”

According to records at the Moore County Sheriff’s Department, Mr. Stewart’s wife, whose maiden name was Wanda Gay Neal, was taken from the nursing home to the hospital to see her husband after he was wounded by a police officer who responded to the shooting. The Associated Press, quoting a neighbor, said Ms. Neal worked at the nursing home as a nursing assistant.

Mr. Stewart will be charged with eight counts of first-degree murder, Ms. Krueger said. The victims ranged in age from Jerry Avant Jr., a 39-year-old nurse, to Louise DeKler, 98, who had enjoyed bowling well into her 80s. At least two people were killed as they sat in their wheelchairs, one witness said.

Mr. Stewart, 45, and Ms. Neal, 43, have a long history. They have married each other twice, the first time when she was 17. Within three years, they had divorced, but they remarried in 2002.

Ms. Neal had three other husbands in between. One was Kevin Luck, and some neighbors of the couple identified her as Wanda Luck, though it was not clear what name she currently uses. Mr. Stewart has been married four times. According to court papers, he is disabled and has an income of $786 a month.

A witness to the shooting, Michael Lee Cotten, said Mr. Stewart weighed about 300 pounds and was dressed in bib overalls.

In the days leading up to the shooting, Mr. Stewart was apparently down on his luck. “He seemed real depressed,” said Mack Hancock, who saw Mr. Stewart last week. Mr. Stewart said he had prostate cancer, Ms. Neal had left him, and “everything had gone to hell,” Mr. Hancock recalled.

Sue Griffin, who was married to Mr. Stewart for more than 15 years, until 2002, said she had noticed some unusual behavior recently. Ms. Griffin said that the two had not spoken since they split up, but that in recent days Mr. Stewart had tried to contact her through her mother, sister, son and neighbor. He told her son that he had cancer and “was planning on leaving town to visit places he hadn’t seen,” she said.

On Sunday morning, Mr. Cotten, 53, pulled into the parking lot of Pinelake Health and Rehab to visit his great-aunt. “The alleged suspect just leveled his weapon, which appeared to be a rifle or shotgun, at me in my vehicle and began shooting before I even came to a complete stop in the parking lot,” Mr. Cotten said.

The car windows were shattered, and Mr. Cotten was hit by a pellet in the left shoulder. “He was very calm, very deliberate; he looked right straight at me,” he said.

Mr. Cotten ran into the building, where he warned that shots had been fired before heading toward his aunt’s room. When he heard the gunman enter the building, he took refuge in a bathroom. “You could hear him coming down the hallway and just shooting randomly, and people hollering and screaming,” he said.

Then Justin Garner, the only police officer on duty that morning in Carthage, responded to an emergency call and entered the building alone, exchanging fire with the gunman, Chief McKenzie said at a news conference. Mr. Stewart suffered one gunshot wound to the upper torso, Chief McKenzie said, and Officer Garner was wounded by three pellets in the foot and leg.

“Whether or not he realizes it now, he will hopefully someday realize how many lives he actually saved,” Chief McKenzie said, speaking of Officer Garner.

He added that the police had recovered several weapons the gunman carried into the building.

On Monday, many of the victims’ families were still in shock. The family of Tessie Garner, 88, sat in folding chairs on a porch adorned with white flowers, crying and eating cake. Jim Foster declined to say much about his father-in-law, Jesse Musser, an 88-year-old retired railroad machinist, except that “he was a quiet man and a humble man.”

Traci Pennypacker, 43, said she had spent the day wondering why her aunt’s mother, Ms. DeKler, had died this way. “Had this not happened,” Ms. Pennypacker said, “I just can’t imagine that she wouldn’t have lived to be in her hundreds."


Gunman Kills 8 at a N. Carolina Nursing Home

By A.G. Sulzberger and Mark Binker - The New York Times

March 29, 2009

A gunman opened fire Sunday at a nursing home in Carthage, N.C., killing seven elderly patients and a nurse and injuring several other people, including a police officer, the authorities said.

The shooting began around 10 a.m. at Pinelake Health and Rehab, a one-story brick building with white rocking chairs out front.

The patients were identified by The Associated Press as Louise DeKler, 98; Lillian Dunn, 89; Tessie Garner, 88; John Goldston, 78; Bessie Hendrick, 78; Margaret Johnson, 89; and Jesse Musser, 88. All were residents. The nurse was identified as Jerry Avant Jr., 39.

Frances Greene, the sister of Mr. Avant, said the authorities believed that her brother was shot while trying to stop the gunman.

“He just lay down his life to protect the residents and employees there,” Ms. Greene said. “Unfortunately he lost his life. But he was a hero.”

The gunman was identified as Robert Stewart, 45. Mr. Stewart was wounded and apprehended at the scene, said Maureen Krueger, the Moore County district attorney. Officials released few details about the attack, including what, if any, motive Mr. Stewart, a resident of the county, might have had.

The A.P. reported that while the authorities declined to comment on a possible motive, Mr. Stewart’s ex-wife said he had recently been reaching out to family members, telling them that he had cancer and that he was preparing to “go away.”

The ex-wife, Sue Griffin, told The A.P. that she had been married to Mr. Stewart for 15 years. They had not spoken since divorcing in 2001, she said, but he had been trying to call her over the past week through her son, mother, sister and grandmother.

Ms. Griffin said Mr. Stewart had once been a painter. She said she had no idea whether her ex-husband was connected to the nursing home.

“He did have some violent tendencies from time to time,” Ms. Griffin said. “I wouldn’t put it past him. I hate to say it, but it is true.”

Mr. Stewart is charged with eight counts of first-degree murder and a single charge of felony assault of a law enforcement officer, The A.P. reported.

Bobby Hyman, 48, who lives a half-mile from Mr. Stewart’s residence, said Mr. Stewart rented the house and 10 acres of land and moved in about a year ago.

Mr. Hyman described Mr. Stewart as “just a good old country farm guy.” “He’d let me know if anybody went on my property he didn’t recognize,” Mr. Hyman said.

Families of victims spent much of the day gathered at the nearby First Baptist Church. Many people streamed into the nursing home, on the outskirts of Carthage, to check on loved ones.

Michael Maness, 53, showed up at the home after learning about the shooting while at a church in a nearby town. His sister is a resident of the home. “She’s just a little shook up,” Mr. Maness said.

Bernard Bryant, the administrator of the facility, declined to answer questions. “Our concerns are with our residents, our families and our staff,” Mr. Bryant said.

According to the home’s Web site, it is a 120-bed facility that offers rehabilitation therapy, nursing care and hospice care and has a special Alzheimer’s unit. The site says it is one of several homes run by Peak Resources, a North Carolina company founded in 1999.

After the attack, six people were taken by ambulance to the nearby FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said. By early evening, three had been released, one was still being treated and two had died.

Officer Justin Garner was shot in the leg while responding to the shooting. “But for his action we certainly could have had a worse tragedy,” said Ms. Krueger, the district attorney.

Officials in this south-central North Carolina town were stunned by the violence.

“This doesn’t happen in Carthage; this is brand new to us,” said Carol Sparks, the town manager. “Everybody right now is in a state of shock. I am too.”

Chief Chris T. McKenzie of the Carthage Police Department said, “This is a small community built on faith, and faith will get us through.”

State Senator Harris Blake of Moore County said the nursing home was a pillar of the community.

“I would predict that almost everybody in this area knew someone who knew someone at that center,” Mr. Blake said. “We hear about tragedies like this all over the country, and we say, ‘Oh, that’s bad.’ Until it hits home, you don’t get a full picture."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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