LUMBERTON — The deaths of two men whose bodies were found Thursday at an auto repair shop in Lumberton are being investigated as murders.
The names of the dead men were not immediately released, but a relative of one identified both of the victims. A sheriff’s captain later confirmed the two dead as being Patrick Bonnette and Robbie Neil Hammonds.
The Robeson County Sheriff’s Office received the call about 10:30 a.m. and arrived at the scene within five minutes, Sheriff Ken Sealey said.
“We got out here and found two bodies, one in the building and one outside,” Sealey said. “It does appear to be a homicide.”
The repair shop is located on Nestle Lane in the Saddletree community. No other information was released by the Sheriff’s Office, including how the men died.
“That is where we are at right now,” Sealey said. “We’ve done processing it (the scene), we’ve done a canvass, we’ve got some SBI agents coming in, helping us assist.”
A family member at the scene said one of the victims is Bonnette, who was 47 years old and lived in Lumberton.
At about 4 p.m. law enforcement officers could be seen using bolt cutters to gain access to the garage located in front of the storage facility where the two bodies were found. A small crowd of family members watched.
One of the onlookers was Richard Locklear, Bonnette’s cousin.
“He was a good person. He wouldn’t have hurt nobody,” Locklear said. “He’s had a past but he wasn’t a bad person. He isn’t somebody who would have had enemies just like that.”
Bonnette’s relatives said he and Hammonds were longtime friends. Locklear described Hammonds as a man who “wouldn’t hurt a flea.”
Once the lock was removed, law enforcement officers entered the building and two family members crossed the police tape to see if anything inside the structure was disturbed, moved or stolen.
After law enforcement officers instructed the two family members to step back beyond the yellow tape, the officers briefly inspected the building.
A few minutes later, law enforcement agents could be seen taking down the yellow tape as sheriff’s Capt. Forest Obershea and Special Agent Jay Davis, of the State Bureau of Investigation, approached family members to brief them.
“We can’t answer a lot of questions right now, there will be an autopsy done,” Obershea said. “We did confirm that it was Patrick, and the other guy is Robbie. I am sorry for your loss.”
Obershea also cautioned the family to wait before entering the building where one of the body’s was found.
“Whatever happened in that small building behind back on the side over there, I don’t want nobody to be surprised or shocked, but there is some visible blood,” Obershea said. “Let them clean up before you go in.”
Family members, visibly upset, had many questions for Obershea.
“There are some things that we can’t answer. You may find that frustrating,” Obershea said. “You might not see us outdoors, but we are working on this case.”
Atoria Chavis, Bonnette’s ex-girlfriend with whom he had two children, said as her eyes welled up with tears that her daughter was pregnant.
“He was going to be a grandfather,” Chavis said.
Patrick’s mother, Ola Bonnette, recently buried her husband.
“That was my baby son. That is the only son I have living,” Ola said. “I had one be killed in 2011.”
Henry Clairmont Bonnette Jr., 46, of 311 Winslow Drive in Lumberton, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the back of his head on May 7, 2011, on Hilly Branch Road, a few miles south of Old U.S. 74, according to a statement released by the Sheriff’s Office shortly after his body was found. A passing motorist saw the body on the shoulder of the road and contacted the Sheriff’s Office.
“Cold cases may have suspects but often we do not have enough evidence to make an arrest.” Sheriff Sealey said Thursday evening. “We don’t close any case until they are solved.”
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-816-1987 or via email at [email protected]