CHARLOTTE, NC (Michael Gordon/The Charlotte Observer) - People close to Timothy Crumitie kept dying.
The former Cabarrus County minister, a convicted felon, has been physically present or criminally linked to three mysterious shooting deaths over less than a decade – including those of his wife and a former business partner.
On Monday, Crumitie's role in a fourth fatal shooting will bring him to a Mecklenburg County courtroom where he will be tried on a first-degree murder charge.
The 52-year-old is accused of the 2016 shooting death of Michael Gretsinger and wounding the man's fiancé, Kimberly Cherry – Crumitie's former girlfriend.
For more than four decades, the lives of Crumitie and those around him have been marked by outbreaks of gun violence.
In 1998, he left a North Carolina prison after serving an eight-plus years for armed robbery and other charges.
He became a minister, and eventually took over as pastor of a Kannapolis congregation.
In 2005, Crumitie was charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of Danny Johnson, who operated a flooring company next door to Crumitie's church.
Crumitie spent five years in jail before authorities dropped the charges, saying they lacked the evidence to take the case to trial.
Eight years later, violence struck again. This time, Crumitie was the lone surviving witness to a double homicide inside the garage of his Concord home.
He told police that during an attempted robbery, James Blanks fatally shot Crumitie's wife, Sharon, then shot Crumitie in the hand before Crumitie wrested the gun away and shot and killed Blanks in self-defense.
"The only thing I felt was a hard hit in the back of my head," he said. "I went to the floor. I heard my wife screaming, 'Honey, get up.' "
Crumitie says he then heard a gunshot.
No charges were filed.
Less than a year later, Crumitie pleaded guilty to setting fire to the same home to collect insurance, a case that reopened lingering suspicions surrounding the earlier killings.
In the most recent case, authorities say Crumitie shot Gretsinger and Cherry in August 2016 at the dead man's University City apartment. Crumitie then kidnapped Cherry who later escaped, prosecutors say.
At the time of the shooting, Gretsinger's family questioned why someone with Crumitie's background was not in jail.
If convicted, Crumitie faces a mandatory life sentence without parole. The case will be heard by Superior Court Judge Hugh Lewis.
Crumitie's defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender MikeKabakoff, would not comment.