Second suspect sought in Wilmington killing

Second suspect sought in Wilmington killing
James Girlee Hardy, 39, has been arrested in the Pinecrest Parkway homicide case. (Source: WPD)

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Investigators are searching for a second suspect in connection to the killing of Wilmington man last week.

Police have already arrested and charged James Girlee Hardy, 39, in the March 4 shooting death of Donald Wayne Gurganious, 57, at his home on Pinecrest Parkway.

The existence of a second suspect was confirmed on Thursday by the Wilmington Police Department after WECT obtained a copy of a warrant allowing investigators to search Hardy’s home, located just half a mile away from the crime scene in the 1200 block of S. Fourth Street.

“This was an isolated incident and we do not believe the public is in danger,” a spokesperson for the police department wrote in an email on Thursday.

According to the warrant, a witness told officers two men came into the home just before 10:30 p.m. and shot Gurganious. The witness was unable, however, to identify either suspect.

Video footage obtained from neighboring homes proved key to investigators’ case. Recordings obtained by police from that evening showed a light-colored SUV, apparently a Toyota Highlander, drive past Gurganious’ home once, then return a few minutes later and park.

“Two suspects exit the same vehicle and walk to the victim’s residence,” a detective wrote in the document. “Several gunshots can be heard on the video footage. After the gunshots the same two suspects are seen running back to the same vehicle, they get in and then leave the area.”

Though it’s not openly explained why, detectives connected their case to an incident on Christmas day last year involving Hardy’s wife. According to the document, Hardy’s wife fired two shots with her pink handgun. A police report indicates the shooting took place at Hardy and his wife’s home.

The detective also noted in the document that Hardy’s wife owns a Toyota Highlander, and that GPS tracking on March 4 and 5 showed the vehicle in the immediate area of the Gurganious’ home at the time of his murder.

“The vehicle matches the vehicle that is seen in a nearby resident’s camera footage,” a detective wrote in the warrant.

Prior to arresting Hardy, officers on at least one occasion saw him driving the vehicle in downtown Wilmington, according to the document.

Investigators seized a pink 9mm handgun, a plastic bag apparently containing crack cocaine and a plastic bottle with bags of marijuana inside during their search of Hardy’s home, according to the warrant.

In addition to first-degree murder, Hardy is charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, first-degree burglary, possession of a schedule VI controlled substances, two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, maintaining in a dwelling a controlled substance and possession of crack cocaine. He is also charged with assault by pointing a gun, and an additional possession of a firearm by a felon in an unrelated incident that occurred on Feb. 25, 2020.

Editor’s note: WECT is not identifying Hardy’s wife, who was named in the search warrant, as she has not been charged in this case.

Copyright 2020 WECT. All rights reserved.