Who knows why Robert Stewart slammed into Pinelake Health and Rehab on Sunday morning, killing seven elderly patients, as well as a nurse who took care of them.
But if the cause of the rampage was a domestic situation, as Carthage police Chief Chris McKenzie says it might be, then I'm reminded of something my mother used to say:
There's a thin line between love and hate.
Undoubtedly, we are most vulnerable to those we love most deeply.
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Which is fine until the day that love, which surely began in ecstasy, begins to curdle.
When love fails, pride usually takes a hit. Anger and sorrow are universal responses. But in some, rage floods the body.
And, suddenly, that thin line between love and hate becomes a thin, red line, and the person who was loved more than life itself can lie dead.
Check out the statistics on domestic violence in our state.
About a quarter of our homicides last year resulted from a family member – or lover – killing another family member.
And Mecklenburg – admittedly the most populous county – topped the list with 14 domestic violence homicides last year, twice as many as any other.
In rarer cases, the rage that erupts from hurt pride doesn't aim only at one person. It cuts a broader and even more savage swath.
Not only the spurned lover, but also the shunned youth, unleashes his venom on the wider world. Think of Columbine and Virginia Tech. The fellowship of bullets and blood, as one reporter called it.
And now the tragedy of Pinelake.
Here's what we know about Stewart's relationships.
His estranged wife, Wanda Luck, works at Pinelake. A neighbor told a reporter Luck was on duty the morning of the shooting.
Another ex-wife, Sue Griffin, told reporters she had not had contact with Stewart since they divorced in 2001, but that he had been trying to call her during the past week – through her son, her mother, her sister and grandmother.
She also said that Stewart, 45, had recently been reaching out to family, telling them he had cancer and was preparing for a long trip.
We may never know why Stewart opened fire on these elderly people. We will surely never know how many more he would've killed had he not been shot and wounded by a police officer.
What we do know – and know for certain – is that emotions can go haywire, and that the victims of a rampage can have no connection to the killer besides being in his path.
Laws can be laid down. Rules can be tightened. And they should be.
But violent insanity can always manage to find an unlocked door. And sometimes that door can open onto a defenseless person, lying in bed, about to thank the good Lord for a clear view of a bright, blue sky.