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Accused nursing home shooter was coherent at hospital

Posted August 4, 2011
Updated August 9, 2011

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— After a shooting rampage ended at a Carthage nursing home two years ago, the suspected gunman was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, and he appeared calm and coherent, a nurse testified Thursday.

Robert Kenneth Stewart is charged with eight counts of murder in the March 29, 2009, shootings at Pinelake Health and Rehab. A nurse and seven patients at the facility were killed, and three other people were wounded.

Stewart could face the death penalty if convicted.

Darlene Harris was working at Pinelake's front desk the morning of the shooting and said she didn't have time to call 911 when Stewart came through the front door with a shotgun. Instead, she said, she ran down a hall and jumped out a window.

"I went through the gate and ran through the woods. Other employees were running. I ran to a house," Harris testified. "I felt it was better to go somewhere that was crowded, so I ran to the McDonald's. I remember opening the door and getting into a corner. I just stood there."

In the chaos, she said, she managed to call 911. An ambulance picked her up because she thought she might have suffered a minor heart attack while running for her life.

Harris sobbed on the witness stand as she recalled the terror of being taken to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital because she feared the gunman might have gone to the hospital as well.

"I didn't want him to see me. I begged them, 'Please, cover my face!' I didn't want him to shoot me too," she said.

The shootings ended when a Carthage police officer shot Stewart in the shoulder.

Robert Stewart Accused nursing home shooter was coherent at hospital

Stewart was taken to Moore Regional for treatment, and emergency room nurse Rebecca Powell testified that he was "very alert" and his speech wasn't slurred. Although Stewart had a blank stare, he didn't appear to have overdosed on sedatives, she said.

Defense attorney Jonathan Megerian has said Stewart doesn't recall what happened the day of the shooting and can't be held legally responsible for his actions. Stewart overdosed on the sleep-aid Ambien the night before the shootings and also was taking anti-depressants at the time, Megerian said.

"I remember him telling me that he had been depressed, that he had been talking to his aunt and that he wanted to see his wife," Powell said. "He was very nervous about seeing his wife.”

Wanda Stewart, who worked at Pinelake, had left her husband a few days before the shootings, witnesses said.

"I asked him where she was at. She was at work," Powell said. "He did say that everything went kind of foggy after that. The next thing he remembered was that he was surrounded by police officers and brought to the emergency room."

Several witnesses testified this week that Stewart was deliberate in his actions during the rampage, saying he took time to reload while walking the halls of Pinelake.

Powell said Robert Stewart told her he took six "nerve pills" but that he couldn't remember the name.

He said he wouldn't try to harm anyone in the hospital but wanted to commit suicide, Powell said.

"He did say he did want to harm himself,” she said. "He did say that he would shoot himself.”

Robert Stewart never asked about the conditions of any of the shooting victims, she said.


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  • AlbertEinstein Aug 4, 2011

    Eye for an eye!

  • cjspeaks Aug 4, 2011

    @ oldrebel.. Good point maybe he did take the pills in the parking lot, and then went on his killing spree.

  • vandykebrune Aug 4, 2011

    have had insomnia all my life and I take Ambien when needed. He says he took 6? I would be shocked if he could get out of bed!
    Ditto. Although as heavy as he is, he problem ate a few burgers and fries 1st, and that slowed the drug down.

  • anne53ozzy Aug 4, 2011

    It is our nature, I think, to try to rationalize the irrational. I have seen similar actions in my family, as sad and tragic as it was. Although the level of violence was not as pervasive as this was, I have learned so much about the warning signs and indications of this sort of behavior. That he was calm and coherant after the fact means nothing.

  • corgimom06 Aug 4, 2011

    I have had insomnia all my life and I take Ambien when needed. He says he took 6? I would be shocked if he could get out of bed! And I don't care if he was on medication-does this now mean we shouldn't prosecute drunk drivers because they may not remember causing a crash and killing someone? In my opinion this was planned and his BS story doesn't wash.

  • oldrebel Aug 4, 2011

    I find it difficult to understand why Mr. Stewart wasn't almost comatose after taking that many Ambien. Could it be he ingested the medications in the parking lot as a prelude to an atempted suicide that would take affect after his planned murder of his estranged wife?

  • rachell15 Aug 4, 2011

    @donnamama I agree with everything you said except this:
    May God have mercy on his soul....
    I don't think he will have any mercy on the mans soul.

    If this man gets off it will be a sign to everyone to take ambien or some other drug before you do something illegal and use it as an excuse. ridiculous there is no excuse for what he did at all.

  • terribletaste Aug 4, 2011

    This man should be set free. If he doesn't remember killing anyone, then it's not his fault. HAHHAAHHAHAHAHAH LOL!!

  • donnamama Aug 4, 2011

    This entire case sickens me!!! I divorced an abusive husband after many years of abuse, control and threats that he would hurt/kill me or my children. I worked at a long term care facility for many years. My ex threatened on several occasions to go to my work and hurt me or get me in trouble. It takes a common person to threaten one person, much less endanger innocent, precious people that just happen to be around. The thought of a humble senior citizen who has lived a productive life and sacrificed in order to provide for their families...only to be shot down in their Golden Years by some loser that was mad at his wife, brings me to tears. I hope justice comes crashing down on this evil man, just as his wrath did to the families involved. People need to be responsible for their own actions and control themselves, not lay blame on drugs/alcohol. Taking the pills was likely part of his plan so he could have an 'excuse'. May God have mercy on his soul....

  • danunger Aug 4, 2011

    Guess my last comment was a bit harsh.....make the bad man go away.