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Accused gunman made angry calls before nursing home shooting

Posted August 8, 2011
Updated August 9, 2011

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— In the days leading up to a shooting rampage at a Carthage nursing home, the alleged gunman made a series of angry phone calls to his wife's acquaintances, authorities testified Monday.

Robert Kenneth Stewart is charged with eight counts of murder in the March 29, 2009, shootings at Pinelake Health and Rehab that killed a nurse and seven patients and wounded three other people. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors have argued that Stewart was abusive and controlling of his wife, Wanda Neal, prompting her to leave him in the weeks before the massacre. He went to Pinelake, where she worked, to track her down and was so heavily armed that nothing was going to stop him, prosecutors have said.

Stewart pumped two shots into the headrest of Neal's PT Cruiser, which was parked outside Pinelake, before going inside, witnesses testified.

Detective Eric Galloway of the Moore County Sheriff's Office, who collected physical evidence from the nursing home parking lot, read a transcript Monday of a phone call Stewart made to Neal's pastor about a week before the shootings.

"I just wanted to let you know what a good Christian she is. She found out I got prostate cancer, and she left me. That's a fine Christian, ain't it?" the transcript read.

Stewart called the pastor twice more in the middle of the night to express similar feelings about Neal.

Cynthia Brewer, who lives next door to Stewart's former in-laws and has known him and Neal for years, testified Friday that Stewart also called her four days before the shootings. He said Neal had left him for "the last time" and that her parents needed to go to his home and pick up her dog and cat.

Neal is expected to testify Tuesday.

Sketch of Robert Stewart in court Accused gunman made angry calls before nursing home shooting

Aaron Morris, who did some work on the Stewart home, testified Monday that Stewart verbally abused Neal and threatened to kill her if she left him.

"As long as she was doing what he wanted, she was fine. I never saw him lay a hand on her, but (there was) definitely abusive language," Morris said.

Superior Court Judge James Webb disallowed the testimony, however, saying the actions Morris witnessed occurred years before the Pinelake shootings.

Jurors also reviewed photos of the crime scene on Monday, and family members of the shooting victims wept in court as Detective Bradley Whitaker of the Moore County Sheriff's Office described the photos, which showed people slumped in wheelchairs after being shot and others dead in bed.

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.

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.

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


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  • carroln Aug 9, 2011

    jstcurious0124;my thoughts exactly. and alot of other people if they weren't scared to speak up!

  • Shelley Cooper Aug 9, 2011

    why stop here?

    wral.com posts mug shots

    let's go through those and declare them all guilty

  • johnstonredneck Aug 9, 2011

    Why is it that no matter how many people see/witness's crime taking place,the criminal is only alleged or accused?

  • pebbles262004 Aug 9, 2011

    "bfaulkner" I agree

  • barbstillkickin Aug 9, 2011

    Wait I thought he was sleep walking. Man this guy has talent to make calls, drive to spot, load a gun and shoot everyone who tries to stop him. Sure glad I do not sleep walk I could only imagine what I might do.

  • udoowutchyalike Aug 9, 2011

    I'm tired of reading about this "Alleged" gunman. There's no allegded about it, he IS the gunman!

  • jimbo141 Aug 8, 2011

    to the person that says the atty is supposed to make a vigorous case, i'm sorry, but a defence attys ONLY job is to ensure this poor excuse of a man gets a fair trial, nothing more!

  • bfaulkner Aug 8, 2011

    If the Moore Co. Sheriff deputy had just dropped him with one right between the eyes rather than wounding him this whole thing would have been over not long after it started. Us taxpayers just can't catch a break lately.

  • jrfergerson Aug 8, 2011

    my question is how do these da's sleep at night. This man is truly guilty of killing those who meant him no harm- no doubt about that- hope the jury sees this as a scam calling others to say this is the last time, preparing with weapon and ammo - if he was not aware of what he did that day he sure premeditated it days before his actions. If there was such a thing in NC as putting someone to death for what he did he sure would be the 1st in line as a candidate. there is no excuse for a jury to issue a sentence other than guilty - life without chance of parole so us taxpayers can keep him up the rest of his rotten life.

  • wildcat Aug 8, 2011

    The defense attorneys are doing what they are supposed to do.

    The man do have a right to a fair trial in the United States of America. Just as you would want that fair trial is you found yourself fighting for your life in court.