COLORADO SPRINGS — A veteran of the Iraq war and a married mother of two were identified Sunday as the two civilians killed Friday when a gunman opened fire inside a Planned Parenthood clinic here.
The 29-year-old veteran, Ke’Arre Marcell Stewart, was a DJ, an entrepreneur and, by all accounts, a devoted father to his two young daughters. “He was always trying to make things better for him and his family,” said his aunt Tronda Stewart.
Jennifer Markovsky also had two children, a son and a daughter. The 35-year-old Hawaii native had gone to the nearby Planned Parenthood clinic Friday to support a friend. “She was the most wonderful, kindest person you’d ever know,” her father in Hawaii, John Ah-King, told a reporter from the Colorado Springs Gazette. “She was willing to help everybody or anybody who needed help. She was always there for everyone.”
The victims were identified by local authorities late Sunday. The attack also killed Officer Garrett Swasey of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police and left nine other people wounded.
The suspect, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear Jr., remained in custody Sunday. Dear, who moved to Colorado last year, is being held without bond and is scheduled to appear in court Monday. He has been described by people who know him as a malcontent and a drifter who has had numerous run-ins with the law over the years.
Reached by phone Sunday, Stewart’s mother, Sharon Lloyd, was too distraught to speak. His brother, Leyonte Chandler, described Stewart on Facebook as “an Army veteran who served a tour in Iraq has left behind 2 beautiful young girls.”
Kimbri Johnson, a cousin in Jacksonville, Fla., described Stewart as “really loving” and dedicated to family and friends. The last time the two spoke, she said, they talked about how they didn’t always want their family gatherings to be at funerals.
By late Sunday afternoon, a GoFundMe site had been set up in Stewart’s name, aimed at helping his family with funeral costs. The person who created the fund, Amburh Butler, wrote that Stewart was originally from Texas. “He was caring, giving, funny and just a damn good person,” she wrote.
Sharon Wolfe worked with Stewart at Connect for Health Colorado for a year and a half. She said they helped people get health insurance after the Affordable Care Act became law, and he talked constantly about his children.
“He was so loving and so gentle,” Wolfe said. “He was a giant teddy bear. It was nothing for him to wrap his arms around you and say, ‘It’s going to be okay.’ ”
In a peaceful Colorado Springs subdivision full of two-story pastel homes, not far from where Swasey lived, no one answered the door at Markovsky’s address. Her neighbor Darren Guiao recalled her as quiet but friendly. He said his daughter, Alyssa, 9, had played at Markovsky’s house with her son and daughter. They would play tag in the backyard, where Markovsky gardened in the summer.
Relatives and neighbors remembered her as a stay-at-home mother, a kind woman who posted on Facebook about parenting and her husband, Paul, who serves in the military.
“She’s just a really sweet woman that would do anything for everyone,” her sister-in-law, Julia Miller, told the Denver Post. Paul is “struggling, dealing with the children and everything; it’s hard to let them know that their mother is gone.”
More details about Dear’s past and personality also began to emerge Sunday, even as little explanation remained for what brought him to the crowded clinic Friday. Each new story about Dear, each remembrance from relatives and neighbors only deepened the portrait of a surly and often strange man who had drifted from one ramshackle home to another in recent years.
Relatives said Dear was born in Charleston, S.C., and grew up in Kentucky but spent much of his recent life between North and South Carolina. He moved from the mountains of western North Carolina last year to Colorado, where he purchased a five-acre plot of land in Hartsel, about 40 miles west of Colorado Springs.
In 1997, his then-wife reported to police that Dear had assaulted her. She ultimately declined to file charges. Police in Colleton County, S.C., released reports over the weekend detailing at least seven episodes in which Dear, a self-employed art dealer, had disputes or physical altercations with neighbors or other residents. His past arrests include alleged cruelty to animals and allegedly being a “peeping Tom.” He was not convicted in either case.
Although some people he encountered took little note of Dear, others described him as aggressive and delusional, a lone wolf who mainly sought solitude and had little tolerance for small talk.
On a quiet cul-de-sac Sunday in Goose Creek, S.C., one of his three ex-wives, Pam Ross, said she was shaken by news of the rampage in Colorado.
“I only met him a handful of times picking up [Dear’s] son at his grandma’s house,” said a man who identified himself as Ross’s husband. “We had like one or two five-minute conversations. But he wasn’t like this back then. He must have gone freaking crazy to do something like this.”
Even among family, Dear often remained quiet, they said.
Since the shooting, many of his closest relatives have secluded themselves in their homes in the Charleston suburb of Mount Pleasant, declining to talk about him.
At the nearby home of Taylor Dear, one of Dear’s four sons, wads of reporters’ business cards were left ignored, jammed into the front door. Among them was the business card from an FBI agent trying to reach Taylor, as well.
An e-mail address confirmed by two people close to Dear as his was linked to a flurry of message-board postings on Cannabis.com, which markets itself as “the world’s cannabis site.” The posts believed to be from Dear are varied, including political and religious rants and messages in which he appears to try to attract women.
Speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), called the shooting in his state “a form of terrorism.” He also called the frequency of mass shootings in the United States “unacceptable,” saying the country has to do more to “keep guns out of the hands of people that are unstable.”
At Hope Chapel in Colorado Springs on Sunday, mourners remembered Swasey for his sense of duty and selflessness. They recalled him as an accomplished figure skater, a man of deep faith, a practical joker, and a model husband and father.
Swasey’s family issued a statement calling the father of two “a hero who gave his life for others.” It said his greatest joys were his family, his church and his profession.
“We will cherish his memory,” his family wrote, “especially those times he spent tossing the football to his son and snuggling with his daughter on the couch.”
Swanson and Dennis reported from Washington. William Wan in South Carolina and Alice Crites, Wesley Lowery, Julie Tate and Jose A. DelReal in Washington contributed to this report.