Crime & Courts

Gaston man’s death called murder-suicide

Lexington County authorities have identified the man who allegedly killed a 79-year-old man in his Gaston home.

Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said Gustave Adolph Hartner’s caretaker, Robert Lee Henderson Jr., 62, was responsible for Hartner’s death after the two men were involved in a verbal altercation.

Hartner was found dead after sustaining blunt force trauma to the head in his home in Gaston April 27, according to the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, the Lexington County Coroner’s Office and the Gaston Police Department.

Koon said that on April 12, Hartner and Henderson had gotten into a verbal altercation while they were having dinner together at a restaurant. The altercation became physical when the men returned to their home in the 100 block of Anderson Drive. Henderson then allegedly began hitting Hartner in the head several times with a pair of nunchuks, two sticks connected by a short chain or rope. Hartner died several minutes after the attack, according to an autopsy.

Lexington County authorities were called to the home April 27 after neighbors reported not seeing Henderson or Hartner for several weeks. Neighbors also reported a pile of mail beginning to accumulate in the home’s mailbox addressed both to Hartner and Henderson. When investigators arrived, they found Hartner dead inside the home and Hartner’s vehicle missing.

Henderson was identified early in the investigation as the primary suspect, according to Koon. On April 29, deputies with the Wilson County (N.C.) Sheriff’s Office found Henderson inside Hartner’s missing vehicle, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Next to Henderson was a note that explained his involvement in Hartner’s death. Henderson had several children in Wilson County, according to investigators.

Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said a forensic pathologist was able to use medical records to positively identify Henderson as Hartner’s assailant.

Koon said the investigation is still ongoing and it’s unclear how Henderson became Hartner’s caretaker.

Reach Cahill at (803) 771-8305.