Although police have issued a composite sketch of a possible suspect in the shooting death of a Mooresville man, they caution that it doesn't necessarily represent a big break in the case.
The sketch, released Tuesday, is the result of the ongoing investigation into the June 9 murder of Matthew Ryan Stewart, 31.
"I think this is just one piece of the puzzle," said Mooresville Police Chief Carl Robbins on Wednesday. "I don't think it's a deal breaker, but I think it's going to be helpful in the investigation."
Police decline to give details of who supplied information for the sketch.
Robbins noted that people need to remember that the sketch is simply an artist's rendering of the suspect and does not contain complete and total accuracy, as a photograph would.
"It is detailed," he said. "But at the same time it's not to be confused with a photograph. So there might be some things that aren't exactly to scale and that kind of thing."
He added that investigators hope that publication of the sketch may trigger a memory of a neighbor or passerby who saw the suspect on June 9 following the incident at Stewart's north Mooresville home.
Regardless, the chief said the police department remains "cautiously optimistic" as it proceeds with the investigation, now entering its seventh month. He said investigators still continue to follow up on information they receive, although very little has been trickling in lately.
Calling it a "frustrating investigation," Robbins said hopefully the sketch will elicit more information.
Stewart was fatally shot in his bed shortly after midnight on June 9 during what has been called a home invasion in the Gabriel Estates neighborhood in north Mooresville.
Stewart's wife, Angela, said she, her husband and youngest son were in bed when a gunman entered their bedroom at 158 Shephard Hill Drive and began shooting. She was able to escape to a neighbor's house with that son after suffering a gunshot wound to her left arm. Two other children in the home were not harmed.
According to autopsy results released in late July, Stewart sustained gunshot wounds to the face, chest, back and arm as well as stab wounds in the neck, face and shoulder. His body also showed blunt-force trauma wounds and defensive wounds from trying to fight off the attacker, officials said.
Though police have followed up on every lead they've received in the last seven months, Robbins said they lack enough information to identify a suspect in the murder investigation.
In August, police had hoped an $11,000 reward – up to $5,000 from the state and Gov. Beverly Perdue as well as $5,000 from Stewart's family and $1,000 from Mooresville-South Iredell Crime Stoppers – would help crack the case open.
"That reward money, it's still out there," Robbins said in December. "We're disappointed that we didn't get flooded with information (from the reward offering)."
If you have information about the Stewart case, you are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-658-9056 or the MPD at 704-664-3311.