MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Zachary Stirewalt, a 21-year-old openly gay Eagle Scout and former student at Appalachian State University, has been charged with murder of a man with whom he was staying at the time.
According to Lt. L.R. Sanderson a spokesperson for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were called to the scene of the shooting around 6:30 a.m., Saturday, to find Daniel Turman, 43, dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Stirewalt was taken into custody as a person of interest and later charged with murder.
The shooting occurred at Sunshine Village, a sprawling trailer park of about 300 homes in central Alabama.
Police, who have not released information regarding a possible motive, indicated that the victim, who lived alone, had apparently offered Stirewalt a place to stay after learning that he had recently left home and had no place to live.
The shooting would appear to be at odds with Stirewalt’s life and accomplishments, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
While a student Green Hope High School in Cary, N.C., he was the school band’s trumpet section leader and principal trumpet for the school wind ensemble. He was a member of the National Honor Society and served as an officer with a youth group at White Plains United Methodist Church in Cary, where he also sang in the choir and played trumpet with the church orchestra.
In 2009, Stirewalt earned his Eagle Scout rank from the Boy Scouts of America — he renovated the youth rooms at the White Plains United Methodist Church for his Eagle project.
An aspiring photographer, Stirewalt spent the summer in New York City, where he worked as an intern at a photography studio, and chronicled his interests on his blog Sassy Gay Hippie.
Natalie Hayes, 33, manager of Go Studios, where Stirewalt worked from June through late August, said she hired him on the spot and allowed him to live with her for more than two weeks until he found a place to stay.
“He was such a people-sweet person,” said Hayes, who added that she never saw Stirewalt get angry, lose his temper or even say anything rude.
“I can only imagine that he did it in self-defense and that was his only option,” she said.
Stirewalt is being held at the Montgomery County jail, where he has been placed under suicide watch; his bail was set at $75,000.
According to an obituary published in the Montgomery Advertiser, Turman is survived by two sons.