STUART - A retired couple was shot and killed Saturday afternoon at the Cedar Pointe Condominiums off East Ocean Boulevard by one of their neighbors after a homeowners association dispute turned deadly, police said Sunday.
Hugh Hootman, 75, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Henry and Ginger Wallace, both 81. Police say he shot both of them in the chest just outside their apartment.
"We got the call at 3:18 p.m. and we happened to be very close to that apartment," Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told TCPalm. "We had several SWAT team members there because they were getting ready to go out to the Hobe Sound parade for security."
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A homeowners association dispute was the apparent motive in the shooting, Synder said.
"Ginger was the president of that HOA of that building," Snyder said. "And it does appear to us from witness statements that the shooter and Ginger had some disagreement over HOA issues. I don't know what those were, though."
The couple had also gotten in an argument with Hootman just days before the shooting, Snyder added.
Henry Wallace was found with keys in his hand, Snyder said, adding that the couple was found on the sidewalk "not far from their front door" and could have been heading toward nearby mailboxes.
When deputies arrived, neighbors told them that Hootman was in his upstairs apartment.
"Less than 20 minutes after arrival, he then walked out of the apartment and surrendered," Snyder said.
The shooting was a shock for nearby neighbor Joanne Ryder, a snowbird from New York who moved to Cedar Pointe earlier this year.
"I saw her around 3 p.m. that day," Ryder recalled. She said the Wallaces were from New Jersey. "I had a tool of hers and I was walking across the parking lot to give it to her. She came out of the house and she was all bubbly and very happy."
Ryder then left to run some Christmas shopping errands and came home to multiple police cars outside, crime scene tape covering the Wallaces' unit and other neighbors congregating outside.
"I had a lot of respect for the woman. She had to deal with a lot as the president," Ryder said. "She was only doing her job, and in the short amount of time that I knew her, she was so helpful to me."
The condo board was going to host a tree lighting and barbecue Saturday evening, but that never happened, according to Ryder. Just the night before, Ginger went Christmas caroling, she added. And the day before the shooting, Ryder saw the Wallaces happily tanning at the pool.
Henry Wallace was quiet, and loved to ride his bicycle around the condo complex, Ryder said.
"This is a retirement community ... you don't expect something like this to happen. It's a real tragedy," Ryder said. "Now (police) have to notify the family that both parents were killed before Christmas. That's horrible."
Hootman was being held Sunday at the Martin County Jail without bail.
The shooting comes four years after a fire tore through the roof of one of the 10-unit condominiums. That building in the 55-plus community was left uninhabitable after the Memorial Day blaze, but was being reconstructed in 2019.
The slaying of the Wallaces was the third shooting that happened in Martin County on Saturday, Snyder said.
Ri'ahj Lee Thomas, 20, of Fort Pierce shot a man in the leg around 10 a.m. Saturday at the Indian Run Apartments off Southeast Indian Street, police said. Thomas fled the scene and police said Sunday they are looking for him.
The other shooting occurred around midnight Saturday in the 3800 block of Northwest Windemere Drive in Jensen Beach.
A 14-year-old boy accidentally shot his friend, another teenager, with a revolver. The teen was treated for his injuries and discharged from the hospital, according to Stuart Police Lt. Michael Gerwan. No charges are being pressed, he added.
"It is unusual to have that many shootings here, but they weren't related," Snyder said. "They were outliers. This does not indicate a widespread threat to our community."
Olivia McKelvey is TCPalm's watchdog reporter for St. Lucie County. You can reach her at email@example.com, 772-521-4380 and on Twitter @olivia_mckelvey.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Police say man shot, killed couple at condo complex in HOA dispute