Local News

Accused nursing home shooter wrote of 'ending it'

Posted August 9, 2011 11:31 a.m. EDT
Updated August 9, 2011 4:23 p.m. EDT

— A couple of hours after a shooting rampage at a Carthage nursing home, a special response team of officers found a threatening letter at the home of the accused gunman. 

Officers who searched the home of Robert Kenneth Stewart on March 29, 2009, took the stand in his murder trial on Tuesday. When officers were unable to locate the two children of Stewart's estranged's wife, Wanda Neal, they went to his mobile home on Glendon-Carthage Road. 

Officers broke through a side window to search for people and bodies. Once no one was found, the officers went outside and waited for a search warrant to arrive. 

The warrant, obtained by WRAL News in 2009, said officers found at least nine firearms – pistols and shotguns – and an assortment of ammunition "in plain view on the kitchen table and also on a bed."

Robert Aklus, with the Moore County Sheriff’s Office, testified Tuesday that the response team searching Stewart’s home also found a canvas bag containing instructions for building a claymore mine, a remote-controlled device that fires steel balls. 

Defense attorney Jonathan Megerian said that the bag, which Stewart bought from a military surplus store, came with the instructions. 

On the stand, Deputy George Dennis read a couple of excerpts from letters found in Stewart’s home.

“I love Wanda, but she left me for the last time!! Last (expletive) time!!" the letter stated. 

Dennis also read a letter titled "Last Will and Testament," where Stewart wrote about his diagnosis of prostate cancer. Stewart wrote that he wanted to go to Montana or Maine to get away. 

"I hope Wand will understand. I will not let them mess with my manhood," the letter read. 

In an homage to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia, Stewart wrote that he planned to go to Appomattox "to end it."

Stewart is charged with eight counts of murder in the 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 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.

Neal is expected to testify this week. 

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.

Dennis testified Tuesday about medication found at Stewart's home. He said seven Xanax pills, which is used to treat panic and anxiety, were missing. He said it appeared Stewart had taken three of the pills on March 27, 2009, three pills the next day and one pill on the day of the shooting. 

“Exactly how it was prescribed,” Megerian said during cross-examination. 

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.

Dr. Samuel Simmons, a forensic pathologist for the state Medical Examiner’s Office, testified Tuesday about Lillian Dunn, who was shot twice by a shotgun. Simmons said the shots were fired from about 4 or 5 feet away. 

"This would be a painful injury up to a point where she lost consciousness," Simmons said. 

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