North Carolina Nursing Home Shooting Rampage: Man Found Guilty of Second-Degree Murder

September 12, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Robert Stewart, the man convicted of eight counts of second-degree murder in the 2009 mass shooting at a North Carolina nursing home, has been spared the death penalty. Instead, he will spend life in prison without parole.

Stewart admitted to shooting 11 people at the Pinelake Health and Rehabilitation Center. Eight of the people he shot at the Carthage nursing home died:

• Tessie Garner, 75
• Jesse Musser, 88
• Lillian Dunn, 89
• Bessie Hedrick, 78
• Margaret Johnson, 89
• John Goldston, 78
• Nurse Jerry Avant, 39
• Louise DeKler, 98

Already, the estates of DeKler, Goldston, Johnson, and Dunn have filed a North Carolina wrongful death claim alleging nursing home negligence and premises liability. Stewart’s wife Wanda is believed to have warned administrators that her husband was going to come after her.

On the day of the shooting, March 29, 2009, Wanda was working in a locked area of the facility. The rest of the nursing home, however, remained easily accessible to anyone. The victims’ loved ones say that the facility never warned them that Stewart might go to the Carthage nursing home and cause anyone harm. (Wanda has also been named a defendant for allegedly failing to warn the residents that her husband posed a danger.)

While prosecutors tried to get Robert convicted of first-degree murder—contending that he was aware of his actions and motives when he went looking for his wife, his defense lawyers claimed that at the time of the shooting he had been under the influence of a combination of prescription drugs that put him in a zombie-like state. They also contended that he was depressed because his wife had left him and he believed he was dying from cancer.

Following the jury’s conviction of second-degree murder, the judge sentenced Robert to 189-236 months behind bars for each murder count (that is 126 to 157 years in prison) sans parole. He also was sentenced to 16-22 years for other assault convictions. The defense plans to appeal.

North Carolina Nursing Home Negligence
In addition to protecting residents from North Carolina nursing home abuse and neglect, it is up to staff to make sure that patients and their guests are kept physically safe. This means ensuring that there is adequate supervision, security, and safeguards to prevent sexual assault, physical assault, and other violent crimes.

Nursing homes should be properly secured to prevent unwanted persons from entering or leaving the premise without notice. Security guards, locks on doors and windows, surveillance cameras, and controlled entry and access are just some of the safety measures that can be implemented. If there is an imminent danger that suddenly arises, then adequate warnings, heightened security, and closer supervision can be implemented to provide adequate protections.

Robert Stewart guilty of 2nd-degree murder, sentenced to life in prison,, September 4, 2011

NC man gets life in prison for Carthage nursing home killings, NBC17, September 3, 2011

Related Web Resources:
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Nursing Home Compare,

More Blog Posts:
Alleged Shooter That Caused Eight Carthage, North Carolina Nursing Home Deaths to Go on Trial, North Carolina Injury Lawyer Blog, July 11, 2011

Over 18,000 Reports of North Carolina Elder Abuse and Neglect Made in 2010, North Carolina Injury Lawyer Blog, May 9, 2011

Caretaker Accused of North Carolina Elder Abuse in Beating of 91-Year-Old Woman, North Carolina Injury Lawyer Blog, January 27, 2011


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