Zachary Stirewalt, a Cary Eagle Scout and aspiring commercial photographer, spent the past summer interning with a studio in Manhattan.
Last weekend, police in Montgomery, Ala., charged him with gunning down a 43-year-old man whom Stirewalt had been staying with at a local mobile home park there.
A Green Hope High School graduate and former student at Appalachian State University, Stirewalt, 21, was charged on Saturday with murder in the fatal shooting of Daniel Turman, who lived at 1 Aster Drive, according to Lt. L.R. Sanderson with the Montgomery County Sheriffs Office.
Turman was dead from multiple gunshot wounds when police arrived around 6:30 a.m., and Stirewalt was still at the home, according to Lt. Regina Duckett with the Montgomery Police Department. He was first taken into custody as a person of interest and later charged.
Investigators have not disclosed a motive for the shooting. Duckett said Turman had offered Stirewalt temporary lodging after learning the college student had recently left home and had no place to live.
He is being held at the Montgomery County jail, where he has been placed under suicide watch, Sanderson said. His bail is set at $75,000.
Stirewalt was majoring in technical photography at ASU in Boone. He was last enrolled in the first of two sessions at ASU last summer, and was on schedule to graduate in May, according to Karen Suddreth, a spokeswoman with the schools registrars office.
Natalie Hayes, 33, is the manager of Go Studios in New York City, where Stirewalt worked from June through late August. She hired him on the spot when she interviewed him for an internship, and allowed him to live with her for more than two weeks until he found a place to stay.
His duties there included helping clients who rented space to set up equipment and assisting veteran photographers. He was interested in fashion and architectural photography, Hayes said.
He was very helpful, very responsible, she said Thursday. He was such a people-sweet person. He was really excited about going back to school. He said he had only a semester or two left and he was going to be certified to teach Pilates.
He used to do yoga in the park at Tompkins Square, Hayes said. Some people might think that was strange.
Hayes said she never saw Stirewalt get angry, lose his temper or even say anything rude.
I can only imagine that he did it in self-defense and that was his only option, she said.
The shooting occurred at Sunshine Village, a sprawling trailer park of about 300 homes in central Alabama.
Neighbors said Turman lived alone and kept to himself. According to an obituary published in the Montgomery Advertiser, he is survived by two sons.
Band, Honor Society
The shooting would appear to be at odds with Stirewalts life and accomplishments.
While a student Green Hope High School in Cary, he was the school bands trumpet section leader and principal trumpet for the school wind ensemble. He was a member of the National Honor Society and served as an officer with a youth group at White Plains United Methodist Church in Cary, where he also sang in the choir and played trumpet with the church orchestra.
In 2009, Stirewalt earned his Eagle Scout rank from the Boy Scouts of America. He renovated the youth rooms at the White Plains United Methodist Church for his Eagle project.
It was a lofty achievement: Fewer than 2 percent of all young men who enter Scouting earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
Stirewalts family could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Soon after starting his NYC internship, Stirewalt registered at modelsmayhem.com, a website for photographers and models.
His Web presence
He portrayed a folksy, down-home manner on his webpage.
Hey yall! he wrote. Im Zach, and Im 21 years old, studying technical photography at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina (literally in the boonies ...).
Stirewalt also started a blog, sassygayhippie.tumblr.com, where he chronicled his venturing into the New York night club scene, including a visit to the historic Stonewall Inn, where the Stonewall Riots ignited in 1969.
In early September, he started a Facebook page where he expressed interests in fasting, yoga and eating a healthy diet.
My path to health and wellness started a little over a year ago, and I couldnt be happier with where I am currently, he wrote. I want you to be healthy too:).
News researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.