CHILSON — The Chilson man who killed his girlfriend Thursday had been arrested in November for assaulting her.
Neighbors and friends of James C. Pangborn, 33, and Elizabeth A. Stuart, 36, who died in a murder-suicide Thursday, said the pair seemed quiet and friendly.
Their violent deaths surprised and rattled this tight-knit hamlet just outside Ticonderoga.
"This little community has always been a quiet community," neighbor and long-time resident Clarice Moses said.
"There's been nothing like this violence here, and we've been here 50 years. We're all one community. It's sad. Especially around Christmas time."
Pangborn and Stuart were found shot to death at their 621 Putts Pond Road home Thursday afternoon.
Ticonderoga Town Police had arrested Pangborn in November for assaulting Stuart during a family argument, but she had remained in the apartment they shared until another disagreement Thursday.
It was then, police believe, that Pangborn shot Stuart with a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun in the living area of the home, then turned the weapon on himself while he sat in his car outside as police arrived.
"He hadn't shot himself when the patrol arrived," said Ticonderoga Police Sgt. Dennis Johnson.
"The officer was on scene when it happened, but he had not approached the car."
After he shot Stuart, Pangborn apparently contacted her father, Walter Stuart of Crown Point, who told a third party, who called police, Johnson said.
A woman who answered the phone at the Walter Stuart home Friday morning said they would have no comment.
Ms. Stuart has a grown daughter, Krystal Stuart, who lives in Crown Point. Her phone has been disconnected.
Johnson said Pangborn was arrested on Thanksgiving day after a family dispute.
"He got into a fight with her and hit her," Johnson said.
Pangborn pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a minor — a friend's baby was present — and was awaiting sentencing in Ticonderoga Town Justice Court.
An order of protection had been issued against Pangborn by the court, but it was not a stay-away order, Johnson said. The order stipulated he must refrain from assaulting, stalking or harassing Stuart, but she told police she did not want to move out.
Essex County Coroner Paul Connery of Ticonderoga pronounced the couple dead Thursday afternoon and ordered autopsies performed at Adirondack Medical Center of Saranac Lake.
Dr. Francis Varga completed the autopsies Friday morning.
The cause of death for both Pangborn and Stuart was massive trauma and loss of blood from gunshot wounds to the head, Connery said.
Stuart had been confined to a wheelchair until recently, the result of an automobile accident two years ago.
Police said Stuart met Pangborn through mutual acquaintances within the last year and had moved here from California.
"She was a very pleasant person," said Cy Labatore, who coaches senior-league baseball in Ticonderoga.
"She used to come in her wheelchair to watch the games. She hardly missed one. She seemed like a sweet lady."
Pangborn had been employed by Ultramar, a gas-and-oil-delivery company in Middlebury, Vt.
Stuart and Pangborn rented their apartment from Mary Louise and Robert Hunsdon, who lived upstairs from the couple. While the Hunsdons could not be reached for comment, Sylvia Hunsdon, an in-law who lives nearby, said Pangborn showed no obvious signs of distress.
"Jim had been over to borrow tools," she said. "He seemed like a nice gentleman."
Ticonderoga Police Chief Jeffrey Cook said his department is conducting a joint investigation with State Police. The State Police Troop B forensic team was still at the house Friday and said wrapup may take until today.
As authorities continue their investigation, residents continue to wonder what could have caused such a violent outburst.
"If this man had a problem, there's help," Clarice Moses said. "All you have to do is go to a doctor, a priest or a minister and say, 'I need help.' Get help, instead of taking it out on others."