RALEIGH — Cathy White had instant rapport with Robert George "Bobby" Gagnon Jr. when the mild-mannered, disabled man moved into the townhome next door last year.
She and Gagnon often stood out front of their homes and chatted. "Motherly," was how she described the relationship.
After Gagnon got a roommate, White didn't see as much of him.
"People started hanging out there," White said. "Scores of people I don't think Bobby even knew."
Gagnon was found slain in his home Saturday morning. Police have not disclosed a motive or how he died, but a 911 tape provides details about what led to the slaying.
Officers and emergency workers were dispatched to Gagnon's home at 5600 Bringle Court at 9:40 a.m. Saturday after the roommate, Antonio Strickland, called 911.
On the tape of the call, Strickland said he had come home and found Gagnon lying against the front door in a pool of blood.
Raleigh police have charged five people with Gagnon's death and four others with accessory after the fact of murder.
When police arrived at the home, they found blood near the back door where someone had smashed through the door's window. The blood coursed through the home to the front door. Blood was on the walls. Furniture was overturned.
Strickland told police he had stayed overnight at the home of a friend who is a nurse. The nurse arrived at the house before police and emergency workers. A 911 dispatcher asked her to check Gagnon's pulse.
"There's no pulse," the nurse said.
"Do you think he's beyond help?" the dispatcher asked.
"Yes, I do."
"Was he shot or stabbed?" the dispatcher asked.
"I can't tell."
A pact for protection
Gagnon was a leg cancer survivor. Last year he bought the 1,300-square-foot townhome at the end of a cul-de-sac in River Knoll, a subdivision off Poole Road.
White, a former police officer, and Gagnon, a tall, bald man with a thin moustache, had a pact. They agreed to beat on the wall that separated their homes if they were ever in trouble.
Last Friday night, White said, she went to bed early. She said there were a lot of people in Gagnon's home making what sounded like "happy" noise.
About 2:30 a.m. Saturday, she was in bed when she heard four or five loud thumps on the wall. Moments later, she heard light tapping.
"I really thought the thumps on the wall was a continuation of them just having fun," she said.
When White got up later to attend intercessory prayer at her church, she prayed for her neighbor. She returned home from church about 10 a.m. and could barely see her home for all the police and yellow caution tape that blocked her driveway.
"I asked somebody if my house was on fire," said White. "They said, 'No, there's been a murder.' "
9 charged in killing
Police have been arresting people all week in connection with the death.
The latest occurred Thursday, when Zachary Delarente Colmore, 17, was charged with murder. Also facing murder charges are Michael Jordan McDuffie, 21; Bravette Devon Chrisp, 18; Marcus Pierre Devon Johnson, 21; and Darrell Jerome Lavine, 19.
Those charged with being accessories are Ebony Monique Johnson, 18; Joshua Lee Locus, 20; Murad Terrell Taylor, 21; and Louis Johnson III, 21. Police have not said what they think the five did to help in the killing.
Strickland declined to talk about his roommate's killing or whether he knew the suspects.
On Thursday, plywood nailed up by police covered the home's front windows. Dust from investigators' search for fingerprints was still visible. About 50 droplets of dried blood dotted the concrete floor of the porch, most of it near the edge.
White, an educator at Wake Tech, said she has not stayed at home since police found her neighbor dead.
"I was a police officer for 13 years," she said Thursday. "But this is different."
(News researchers Susan Ebbs and Lamara Williams contributed to this report.)
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