Local News

Trial nears for accused gunman in nursing home massacre

Posted July 10, 2011 6:10 p.m. EDT
Updated July 11, 2011 10:24 a.m. EDT

— The daughter of a woman killed during a shooting rampage inside a Carthage nursing home more than two years ago is reliving the nightmare Sunday, on the eve of jury selection in the trial of the alleged gunman. 

Authorities say Robert Kenneth Stewart shot and killed eight people and wounded three others, including a police officer, at Pinelake Health and Rehab on March 29, 2009. Stewart's estranged wife, Wanda Stewart, worked at the facility as a nursing assistant. She told WRAL News that she thinks he was gunning for her because she had left him weeks before the shooting.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Louise DeKler, 98, was the first person shot in the spree, which ultimately killed seven patients and a nurse. Her daughter, Barbara Pennypacker, said she is hoping for the death penalty.

"It's just not fair that he should live and these eight people are dead," she said. "It's just not fair."

She remembers vividly the moment she found out about the shootings. She was on her way to the home, where she said she visited her mother daily, and stopped at a nearby store.

"The cashier got a phone call and she said, 'Oh my God,' and she hung up," Pennypacker recalled. "I said, 'What happened?' (and) she said, 'There has been a shooting at Pinelake.'"

Pennypacker said her mother was the first victim because she was waiting for her daughter near the entrance to the home.

"She was right in the hallway waiting for me," she said.

A Carthage police officer, Justin Garner, ended the rampage when he shot Stewart in the chest.

About 750 citizens from Stanly County have been summoned to appear at the courthouse in Albemarle on Monday for jury selection, which could take up to four weeks. Superior Court Judge James Webb ruled that potential jurors would come from Stanly and not Moore County because of the extensive coverage the shootings received.

The trial itself will be held in Moore County.