Nathaniel "Zane" Winters, 45, ran his plumbing business, helped his wife raise two children, cared for his recently widowed sister-in-law and, in his spare time, volunteered with a Wake County fire department.
In short, Winters was the glue that kept things together.
"He helped everybody," said a friend, Angie Young. "If anybody needed anything, no matter if it was family or friends, he was there for them."
Now, Winters' family needs a helping hand. And their friends hope residents of Wake County will reach out and aid the family that has suffered two homicides in less than a year. Friends have organized a fund-raiser on Saturday and have started a relief fund to help the family.
Winters died April 18 after his neighbor, Bernard Eugene "Sandy" Sanford, 62, shot Winters and his sister-in-law, Karen Winters, before setting Karen Winters' mobile home ablaze, according to Raleigh police.
Police charged Sanford, who lived near Karen Winters on Sun Catcher Lane in North Raleigh, with murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, and second-degree arson, according to arrest warrants.
Zane Winters' death came about seven months after his older brother, Fred, was robbed, beaten to death and dumped on a rural Franklin County road by three thieves who stole the crippled man's disability check, according to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.
After his brother's death in October, Zane Winters stepped in to pay for Fred Winters' funeral bills, relatives said. The younger brother also started watching out for his brother's wife, Karen, who was so bereaved she could not eat, work or leave the home.
Now, the family faces funeral expenses and hospital bills for Zane Winters, who had no life or health insurance, his daughter Katey Winters, 16, said.
Karen Winters, 46, who survived the shooting, was severely injured and hospitalized for several weeks with a feeding tube, her niece said. She faces multiple surgeries as doctors attempt to repair her palate, which was ruptured when the handgun's bullet ripped through her face before lodging itself near her right eye socket.
Initial estimates for the funeral and medical bills for both Zane and Karen Winters indicate the debt will reach five figures.
Katey, a high school student, helps out with the bookkeeping, while her mother, uncle and brother have stepped up to keep the family business, E-Z Plumbing, running.
"Dad was the foundation of this business," Katey Winters said. "He read the plans and mom took care of the inside stuff. It's really difficult now."
Staff writer Jennifer Brevorka can be reached 836-4906 or email@example.com.