Friday, July 8, 2005
Fayetteville business owner shot to death
By LEE WILLIAMS
A Fayette County businessman who was well-loved by many was gunned down Wednesday by his business partner who owned a tree removal service with him on Ga. Highway 92 North in Fayetteville, according to the Fayette County Sheriffs Department.
The suspected shooter was collared within minutes by Fayette County Sheriff Randall Johnson, who lives nearby.
Robert Groninger, 43, of Jericho Lane, Fayetteville, died on the grounds of his business at 1479 N. Hwy. 92 when his partner, identified as 46-year-old Charles William Sangster of Ebenezer Road, Fayetteville, opened fire on him, striking him several times, deputies said.
But the murder suspect didnt get far after fatally wounding Groninger, authorities said. Johnson and his deputy Sgt. Mike Jones quickly apprehended him without further incident.
Me and the deputy got him when he came around the corner, Johnson said, walking away from the crime scene roped off with yellow crime scene tape, dotted with Fayette County fire trucks and a patrol car. Me and the deputy got him on the ground.
A handgun believed to be the murder weapon also was confiscated at the scene, authorities later confirmed.
Johnson said the shooting happened not too far from his house and he was the first one on the scene after shots rang out about 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Johnson indicated he was troubled by the incident that ended the life of Groninger, a longtime friend.
He tried to help everybody, Johnson said. Ive known him for a long time. He was like a crutch that would help people when they got down. He was trying to help this boy, but he went off the deep end.
According to Jim Lamb, the property owner who rented space to Groninger for years, Groninger owned Perimeter Services, a courier service alone. Groninger co-owned and operated Big Tree Tree Service out of the same location on Hwy. 92 North with Sangster.
The scene Wednesday was hectic as several friends drove to the business after they learned the news. Some, including a woman with long brown hair, were visibly shaken by the incident. With tears welling up in her eyes, she and other friends shrugged off a reporters request to talk about the incident.
Another man who wore a red shirt also was troubled by the ordeal. He was a good guy, the man said, still too upset to give his name.
Patricia OHara, branch manager of Pine State Mortgage Corp., and a longtime friend of Groningers since 1983, also was shocked by the news. She couldnt imagine someone would hurt a man who was friend to everyone.
He was a courier for years, said OHara of Fayetteville. My office worker just called him two hours before this happened. He was kind and would do anything for you with a smile. He was a helpful fellow.
Sheriffs Department spokeswoman Lt. Belinda McCastle said Wednesday that Sangster faces one count of murder for the alleged crime, but more charges could be forthcoming.
Pending the investigation, there could be more charges, McCastle said.
Investigators remain puzzled as to what triggered Sangster to shoot his partner, McCastle indicated, but she stated the pair had been in a few arguments within the past week, according to people who knew the men.
Wednesdays homicide was the first one logged in Fayette County this year.
McCastle said only one person had a gun during the incident, dispelling allegations that there was a shootout between the two men.
Some like George Konzan, a longtime friend of Groningers, alleged Sangster was troubled and was battling a drug addiction when he shot Groninger.
He was on drugs and he thought he was losing his wife, Konzan said surrounded by a group of Groningers friends. He was going to kill himself the night before and take a few people with him. Its pretty ridiculous.
Konzan said Groninger was a millionaire who owned two businesses. He was on top of the world, he said.
Konzan said Groninger will be missed.
Groningers body was taken to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations crime lab in Atlanta for an autopsy, Fayette County Coroner C.J. Mowell said.
Associates of Groninger said he leaves a wife, Deborah, and two sons, Jack and Mitch Goins, to cherish his memory.
Family visitation for Groninger will be held from 4-8 p.m. Saturday at the Carmichael-Hemperley Funeral Home, 135 Senoia Rd., Peachtree City.
Funeral services for Groninger will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Braelinn Baptist Church, 777 Robinson Rd., Peachtree City.
Meanwhile, Sangster is expected to have his first court appearance at 2 p.m. today.
Copyright 2004-Fayette Publishing, Inc.