Stewart: Odd Midnight Calls Before Pinelake
Friday’s first witness told of a strange midnight phone call the week before the shootings. Cynthia Brewer said she’d known Stewart’s wife Wanda “all her life.”
On a Wednesday before the Pinelake murders, Stewart woke Brewer to ask her to get Wanda and her mother and father Margaret and Melvin Neal to come over and collect a cat and a dog he said were bothering him.
“He didn’t want them there, and they needed to come and get them,” she said. “I said, ‘Robert I can’t do that.’ I raised up in my bed, and looked (out a window) and said, ‘There’s not even a light on over there.’”
You've Got To Go Get Them
Her refusal didn’t sit well with Stewart, who became more insistent.
“He said ‘You’ve got to go get them! You’ve got to go get them!’ – I said I can’t go and get them up,” Brewer testified. “He said he just wanted to get rid of them, just wanted them away from him.”
Stewart told Brewer he and his wife had separated.
“He said Wanda had left him again and went ‘back to her Maaaaama’ – dragging it out, like that,” she said. “He just said that she had left him. He was very upset, really wanted me to go and get them.”
Making Stewart’s wife and her parents – who had not been well – go to retrieve pets in the middle of night made no sense to Brewer.
“I just wasn’t going to,” she said. “You just can’t get people out of bed to go get a dog or a cat.”
In any real emergency Brewer would have gone to her friends immediately, she said – but not for something like this, not at such a time of night. Stewart’s manner changed.
“He kindly calmed down then; he said that was all right,” she said. “It was like he caught on that I wasn’t going to go.”
A Second Midnight Call
Not long after, Stewart called back. He seemed in a better frame of mind at first.
“About 10 after 12 he called me again, more calm,” Brewer said. “Wanted me to know he thought a lot of me, thought at lot of Curt – that’s my father-in-law, Curtis Brewer – said he thought a lot of my husband.”
What Stewart said next took a different track.
“I want you to know that there’s gossip through the woods about you,” he told her, according to testimony. “Wanda and her family talk about you.”
Her husband had died, and she was going to have to sell the farm. She thought at the time it was concern.
“He said, ‘They’ve gossiped about me, too,’” Brewer said. “He said this would be the last time Wanda would ever leave him. ‘I want you to tell them that this is the last time.’ I said OK.”
Stewart repeated what, in this later context, now sounds like a threat. Brewer didn’t take it that way at the time. She knew Robert and Wanda Stewart had married, divorced, married others, and later remarried.
“He told me that several times, that he wanted me to tell them that,” she said. “I just thought he was through, had had it with trying to work things out. I would say it was ten minutes or less. He seemed, I don’t know, like kindly hopeless.”
Stewart had never called her before those midnight calls, she testified. She was not the only person Stewart phoned that night trying to get his wife and the Neals over to his place.
Not the Only Calls
The next day she phoned her late husband’s father to say he’d never guess who’d called her the night before. Curtis Brewer also had a call from Stewart.
“When I told him, he said ‘He called me, too – wanted me to go and get them,’ but he wasn’t feeling good,” she said. “It was my understanding he called Robert back and said he wouldn’t be able to go.”
Under cross-examination Brewer said Stewart didn’t just want somebody to collect the two pets. He wanted his wife. He wanted her mother and father. He wanted them in person and not by telephone, according to testimony.
“He didn’t want Wanda to call,” Brewer said. “He wanted Wanda and Margaret and Melvin to go over there.”
She did not know he’d also called her father-in-law, who told her he had two conversations with Stewart the night before.
“When Curtis Brewer called Stewart back to say he couldn’t go, Stewart said, ‘I didn’t call you,’ and that made him nervous?” Wells asked on cross-examination.
“I do remember hearing that,” she said.
Stewart in the ER
Following Brewer, a number of officers testified about Stewart and other victims in the Emergency Room at Moore Regional Hospital.
Lt. Jerry MacDonald of the Pinehurst Police Department was with Stewart in the Emergency Room. The hospital was locked down, nobody allowed in the emergency entrance unless seeking aid.
“They wanted me to take the handcuffs from behind him,” he said. “I explained I would have to secure him to each side of the bed, which I did. They were checking his vitals, attaching an IV and were going to put a catheter in. They were asking him about any type of medication, anything he was allergic to. He answered them with a quick response. He was very cooperative, understood everything I was asking him.”
Stewart appeared aware he was in the hospital, was cooperative, according to testimony.
“I explained to him what we were doing and he understood,” MacDonald said. “He didn’t appear to be in any pain. He was very calm; he was cooperative; he was aware of his surroundings – at least he appeared to be.”
MacDonald helped move Stewart to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Two more investigators and a magistrate came in to serve warrants.
“They came in and approached the defendant and started reading him the warrants,” he said. “I didn’t hear everything he was charged with, because I was busy. I asked what all he was charged with. He just offered me the warrants, but I didn’t take them.”
MacDonald identified Stewart as the man sitting in the courtroom “in a black jacket and a green shirt.”
For the first time in the trial, Stewart is wearing a tie.
More like this story