Local News

Judge: Accused nursing home shooter will stay in Central Prison

Posted February 17, 2010 4:22 p.m. EST
Updated February 17, 2010 6:08 p.m. EST

— A Superior Court judge on Wednesday reaffirmed his order to hold the man accused of killing eight people at a Moore County nursing home last year in Central Prison in Raleigh.

Robert Kenneth Stewart, 46, is charged with eight counts of murder in a March 29 shooting spree at Pinelake Health and Rehabilitation Center in Carthage. Seven patients and a nurse were killed in the rampage, which ended when a police officer shot the gunman in the chest.

Authorities have not offered a motive for the slayings, but Stewart's estranged wife, Wanda Stewart, a Pinelake employee who was working that morning, said she believed Stewart was looking for her.

Stewart was held at Central Prison, which has a medical center for inmates, for 9½ months while being treated for his wound. Superior Court Judge James Webb also ordered that Stewart be held at the maximum-security prison for safekeeping.

Last month, Moore County prosecutors tried to keep him in the county jail, saying deputies were equipped to handle him since he no longer required medical treatment. The move also would eliminate the need to transport him back and forth from Raleigh for court hearings, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Jonathan Megerian complained about the switch, saying the bullet wound wasn't the only reason Stewart was being held outside Moore County. Numerous death threats against Stewart were mailed to the Carthage Police Department last year, Megerian said.

Sgt. Roy Moore, a jail administrator for the Moore County Sheriff's Office, testified in a court hearing Wednesday that the jail hasn't received any threats and is able to meet Stewart's medical needs.

"He's old news now. The inmates don't care whether he killed somebody or didn't kill somebody," Moore said.

Megerian noted Stewart was housed in the mental health ward at Central Prison.

Under questioning by Megerian, Lt. Kevin Fleece, another jail official, said the county jail doesn't have a doctor on staff or any mental health professional.

"As far as I know, he has not seen a mental health person while here at the jail. He has not taken any medication as it relates to mental health," Fleece said.

Webb said that his order remains in effect, and he told prosecutors to return Stewart to Central Prison while he awaits his trial.

No date has been set for the trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.