Local News

Fatal Shooting, Fire Leaves Family, Neighbors Wondering What Happened

Posted April 18, 2005

— Neighbors and family on Monday were left wondering what led to a fatal shooting and fire that left one man dead and another in serious condition.

Authorities charged Bernard Eugene Sanford Jr., 62, of Wake Forest, with murder, one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and one count of second-degree arson.

Police arrived at a home on Sun Catcher Lane near Wake Forest about 10:30 p.m. Sunday and found a man and a woman with gunshot wounds outside the home.

Moments later, the house caught on fire, and another person came out suffering from burns.

Police identified the shooting victims as Karen Winters, 46, and her brother-in-law, Nathaniel Winters, 45, of Wake Forest. Both were taken to WakeMed. Karen Winters is listed in serious condition. Nathaniel Winters died from his injuries Monday afternoon.

Authorities still do not know how the fire started but said they believe Sanford set the house on fire after shooting the victims.

As investigators sifted through the ashes Monday looking for clues, relatives wondered what happened and why it happened.

Elaine Winters, the victim's wife, thinks her husband may have been trying to help Karen Winters tell Sanford that he needed to move out of her home.

"We think that he came down here to make sure she got home OK," said Elaine Winters. "Or that he was going to go ahead and approach Mr. Sanford and let him know he needed to move back to his home -- that Karen was ready to proceed with her life."

"It's sad because he was the man everyone depended on," said Elaine Winters of her husband, "and they knew they could count on him -- anybody could count on him."

Neighbors say Sanford was Karen's roommate. They say he moved in after her husband was killed last year.

Neighbor Linda Tyree says Sanford, also known to neighbors as Sandy, approached her and her husband earlier on Sunday.

"He told me he wasn't going to be a very nice guy anymore," Tyree said. "The way he looked at us, he was very serious about it."

Those words now have an ominous ring to those who saw the tragedy first-hand.

Elaine Winters said on Monday that her focus is now Karen's recovery. She said Karen is expected to recover after several surgeries to repair damage to her face.

"They're going to have to do some operations to get her to where she needs to be," Winters said. "So we're waiting to hear now on her."

Sanford, who lived with Winters on Sun Catcher Lane, sustained burns as a result of the fire, police say. He was taken to WakeMed and was later transferred to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. When he is released, Sanford will be arrested, police said.

Both police and fire investigations are continuing.

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