Carthage nursing home shooting

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Carthage nursing home shooting
Location Carthage, North Carolina, United States
Date March 29, 2009
Attack type
Mass murder
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 Pinelake Health and Rehabilitation, a 120-bed nursing home in Carthage, North Carolina.[1] The shooter, 45-year-old Robert Stewart, killed eight people and wounded a ninth, before being shot and apprehended by the responding police officer, who was also wounded by gunfire.[2] 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 locked and passcode-protected bathroom.[3]

Stewart was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder.[4][5] On September 3, 2011, a jury convicted Stewart of eight counts of second-degree murder (and several other lesser charges). He was then sentenced to a total incarceration term of 179 years, four months, and 20 days.[6] Stewart's defense attorneys had argued that Stewart was under the influence of Ambien during the shooting, leaving him unable to control his actions.[7]


Robert Stewart, dressed in a bib overall, arrived at the parking lot of the nursing home just before 10:00 a.m., where he fired several shots at his wife's empty car, shattering its windows.[citation needed] Stewart then fired at the car of visitor Michael Lee Cotten as he was driving into the parking lot, hitting him in the left shoulder. Cotten, who later stated that Stewart was "very calm...very deliberate" during the shooting,[8] managed to run into the building and warn the people inside of the gunman.[citation needed] Police received the first emergency calls at approximately 10:00 a.m. and the only police officer on duty in Carthage, 25-year-old Cpl. Justin Garner, was dispatched to the scene.[9]

Leaving a camouflaged 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's 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 usher the other patients to safety. A nurse, Jerry Avant, was shot and killed when he tried to stop the gunman.[10][11] Avant was the only employee killed.

Cpl. Garner confronted Stewart 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.[12] Garner returned fire and hit Stewart in the chest, incapacitating him.[12] Garner recalled that the wounded Stewart said only one thing: "Kill me, kill me."[12] Immediately after the shooting, six people were dead and five others, including Stewart, were taken to a nearby hospital, where 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.[1] [13]


  • 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


Robert Kenneth Wayne Stewart (born September 12, 1963) was born in Robeson County.[14] 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.[citation needed]

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."[15] 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."[16]

Stewart worked as a house painter and had his own painting business, but had filed twice for bankruptcy.[citation needed] He had been out of work for over a year before the shooting, after injuring his back and leg.[citation needed] He served six years in the National Guard and never rose above the rank of private before receiving an honorable discharge.[citation needed] 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."[citation needed]

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 2:00 or 3:00 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 that he "was planning on leaving town to visit places he hadn’t seen."[1] 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."[9]

As of July 2016 Stewart is being housed at the Lanesboro Correctional Institution in Polkton, North Carolina.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gunman Kills 8 at a N. Carolina Nursing Home, The New York Times (March 29, 2009)
  2. ^ Man kills eight at US care home, BBC (March 29, 2009)
  3. ^ North Carolina Nursing Home Gunman's Wife Hid in Bathroom During Rampage, Fox News (March 31, 2009)
  4. ^ Town's lone officer subdued N.C. nursing home shooter Archived April 1, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., The State (March 31, 2009)
  5. ^ Warrants: NC man said he doesn’t remember rampage[permanent dead link], The News Courier (April 7, 2009)
  6. ^ a b "NC DPS Offender Public Information". Retrieved 2016-11-16. 
  7. ^ Robert Stewart guilty of 2nd-degree murder, sentenced to life in prison[permanent dead link], The Fayetteville Observer (September 4, 2011)
  8. ^ ABC News (2009-03-31). "Nursing Home Shooting 'Not a Random Act'". ABC News. Retrieved 2016-11-16. 
  9. ^ a b Dewan, Shaila (2009-03-30). "Alleged Gunman's Wife Worked at Nursing Home". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-16. 
  10. ^ Suspect took 'nerve pills' Archived April 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., The News & Observer (April 8, 2009)
  11. ^ 'I never knew he'd take it that far', The Fayetteville Observer (April 1, 2009)
  12. ^ a b c WRAL (2012-07-21). "Hero in nursing home rampage recalls facing mass murderer ::". Retrieved 2016-11-16. 
  13. ^ 911 tapes show fast response by Carthage officer, The Fayetteville Observer (April 3, 2009)
  14. ^ Robert Stewart arrest warrants
  15. ^ North Carolina Nursing Home Gunman Had Explosive Temper, Was Prone to Violence, Fox News (April 1, 2009)
  16. ^ Officials probe role of relationship in NC rampage, The Guardian (March 31, 2009)

External links[edit]