Carthage nursing home shooting

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Carthage nursing home shooting
Location Carthage, North Carolina, United States
Date March 29, 2009
c. 10:00 a.m.–c. 10:05 a.m.
Attack type
Mass murder
Weapons
Deaths 8
Non-fatal injuries
3 (including the perpetrator)
Perpetrator Robert Stewart

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 a ninth person before being shot and apprehended by a responding police officer, who was also wounded by gunfire.[1] 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.[2]

Stewart, who is being held in North Carolina's maximum security Central Prison in Raleigh, was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder.[3][4] On September 3, 2011, he was found guilty of eight counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to 142 years to 179-and-a-half years in prison. The defense had argued that Stewart was under the influence of Ambien during the shooting, leaving him unable to control his actions.[5]

Shooting[edit]

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, who had been visiting his mother Tessie,[citation needed] was dispatched to the scene about one minute later.[6]

Leaving a camouflage Remington 597 .22 caliber rifle atop a Jeep Cherokee, Stewart entered the nursing home armed with a .357-caliber handgun, a .22 Magnum semi-automatic pistol, and a 12-gauge Winchester 1300 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.[7][8]

Stewart was finally stopped in the hallway at about 10:05 a.m. by Officer Garner. 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.[9] [10]

Victims[edit]

  • 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[edit]

Robert Kenneth Wayne Stewart (born September 12, 1963) was born in Robeson County.[11] 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 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."[12] 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."[13]

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 am, 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.”[6][9] 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.”[14][15]

References[edit]

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