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Man shoots dead 8 in nursing home in North Carolina

DETECTIVES in the United States are investigating whether a gunman accused of killing eight people may have picked a North Carolina nursing home as his target because his estranged wife worked there, police said yesterday.

Carthage Police Chief Chris McKenzie said the woman, whom he did not name, worked at the nursing home. He said he believed the couple were recently separated but did not have any other details. He was not sure if the woman was at the nursing home at the time of the shootings.

Authorities said Robert Stewart, 45, went on a terrifying rampage in the Pinelake Health and Rehab center on Sunday morning, killing seven residents and a nurse and wounding three other people.

An ex-wife of Stewart's, Sue Griffin, said she had not had contact with him since they divorced in 2001 but he had "violent tendencies."

The injured included 25-year-old Carthage policeman Justin Garner, who was hailed as a hero for shooting the gunman before more people could be killed. Garner was wounded in the leg.

"He acted in nothing short of a heroic way today, and but for his actions, we certainly could have had a worse tragedy," said Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger.

Griffin said Stewart had been recently reaching out to family members, telling them he had cancer and was preparing to "go away."

Griffin said she had not had contact with him after their 15-year marriage ended in 2001 but he had been trying to reach her through relatives in the past week. "He did have some violent tendencies from time to time," she said. "I wouldn't put it past him. I hate to say it, but it is true."

Stewart was in custody but authorities would not give any details about his injuries or treatment. He is charged with eight counts of first-degree murder and a felony assault of a law enforcement officer.

Stewart was not a patient or an employee at the nursing home and wasn't believed to be related to any of the victims, authorities said.

Krueger said the victims were Pinelake residents Tessie Garner, 88; Lillian Dunn, 89; Jessie Musser, 88; Bessie Hendrick, 78; John Goldston, 78; Margaret Johnson, 89; Louise Decker, 98; and nurse Jerry Avent, whose age wasn't immediately available.


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