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Memorial service held for nursing home shooting victims

Posted April 19, 2009
Updated April 20, 2009

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— Pinelake Healthcare and Rehab Center held a memorial Sunday to remember those who lost their lives in a deadly shooting last month.

The rampage began around 10 a.m. Sunday, March 29, when police say Robert Kenneth Stewart, 45, barged into the facility and fatally shot seven patients and a nurse and wounded three others. The massacre ended when Carthage Police Officer Justin Garner traded gunfire with Stewart, wounding the suspect.

Family members and friends of the victims were among the hundreds of people who attended Sunday's memorial.

"I thought it was really nice and I think it will give us a little closure," said Erlene Frye, a nursing home volunteer.

Pinelake residents Tessie Garner, 75; Lillian Dunn, 89; Jesse Musser, 88; Bessie Hedrick, 78; John Goldston, 78; Margaret Johnson, 89; and Louise De Kler, 98; and nurse Jerry Avant, 39, died in the shootings.

Officer Garner also attended the memorial Sunday, and received a plaque from the nursing home for his courage and bravery.

Garner underwent surgery to remove two of three shotgun pellets from his left leg. He is recovering at home and said he expects to return to work in May.

Police charged Stewart, 45, of 2530 Glendon Carthage Road, with eight counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony assault on a law enforcement official. He is at Central Prison in Raleigh.

According to search warrants, Stewart told a nurse treating him following the shooting that he had taken six nerve pills and did not remember what happened.

Police have not offered a motive for the crime but Stewart's estranged wife, who works at the nursing home, said she believes she was the intended target. She was not hurt.

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  • Fiddlemom Apr 20, 2009

    I want to personally thank Governor Perdue for thinking of all of us at Pinelake and attending our memorial service yesterday. Even though I don't agree with her politics, I respect her position and was pleasantly surprised when she came.