Nursing home massacre victims receive outpouring of support
Posted July 21, 2009 4:54 p.m. EDT
Updated July 21, 2009 7:55 p.m. EDT
CARTHAGE, N.C. — Nearly four months after a shooting rampage claimed eight lives at a Carthage nursing home, people from around the world continue to express support for the victims with cards, watercolor paintings, drawings and letters, facility leaders said.
"So just the outpouring of love and support we've gotten from all over the United States has been overwhelming to us,” said Tracy Estelow, nursing director at Pinelake Health and Rehab Center.
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.
A granite bench at the facility chiseled with the words "Our Angel, Corporal Garner," stands as a memorial to Garner.
Garner was one of 11 people shot that day. He was hit in the leg but recovered. Seven patients and a nurse died.
None of the residents or employees of Pinelake has left the facility since the shooting. But it has changed its name to Peak Resources – Pinelake, a move that was in the works before the shooting, Estelow said.
"We were a big family before shooting. This has just made us closer and stronger,” Estelow said.
Since the shooting, people have come together to make the facility an even lovelier place for its residents, Estelow said. The Carthage BB&T planted a garden, and the Moore County Community Advisory Committee donated a fountain with an angel.
Walmart of Aberdeen is donating plants and other garden décor for the memorial garden that is planned for the courtyard, while the American Legion donated a new flag to fly out front.
“It’ll bring a tear to your eye. It is really overwhelming to know that that many people are praying for you and holding you into their hearts,” Estelow said.
“We’ve had cookies sent to us, gift baskets sent to us."
A nursing home in Joliet, Ill., even sent $3,000 to the facility.
"I just think that America, and people all over the world, are good people. We have soft, tender hearts, and everyone wanted to reach out and let us know they were thinking about us and supporting us,” Estelow said.
Estelow said letters of support continue to arrive at the facility. The most recent was from a music group in Indiana volunteering to sing for the residents.
Stewart, meanwhile, is being held at Central Prison in Raleigh on eight counts of first-degree murder and a charge of felony assault on a law enforcement officer.