Two shot to death at bottling plant

Two people embrace outside a Sun-drop bottling plant in Concord, N.C., where officials say two people were shot and killed Friday morning during an apparent robbery.
Two people embrace outside a Sun-drop bottling plant in Concord, N.C., where officials say two people were shot and killed Friday morning during an apparent robbery.

CONCORD, N.C. -- Police were continuing the search Friday night for a man who fatally shot two people at the Sun-drop Bottling Co. in what may have been a botched robbery.

One victim was longtime office employee Donna Klinesmith Barnhardt, 59, of Concord, said Concord Deputy Police Chief Guy Smith.

Barnhardt had worked at Sun-drop for 18 years. The other victim was Darrell Wayne Noles, 44, of Concord. He was applying for a job, said the Rev. Donnie Tomlin, whose wife is Noles' niece.

The only other people at Sun-drop were two employees, who were in another part of the building at the time of the shooting. One of them heard gunshots, Smith said.

Dispatchers received a 911 call about 10 a.m. from an employee who said there were "two people down," Smith said.

Barnhardt and Noles were shot in the plant office, he said. About the same time, a man was seen leaving the building, which is at Branchview Drive and Cabarrus Avenue.

"It's a strong possibility this person leaving the building was involved in the robbery and homicides," Smith said.

Police are looking for a black man, 25 to 30 years old and 5 feet 3 inches tall, with a slim build and shoulder-length dreadlocks. He was wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt. He was carrying something when he left the building, Smith said.

Authorities would not say what type of weapon was used in the shootings or how many times the victims were shot. They would not say whether money was taken.

An N.C. Highway Patrol helicopter and a police dog assisted with the search. Officers have been covering an area within about a 1-mile radius from the plant, Smith said.

"We believe the person was on foot," he said.

Authorities received several calls from people who thought they saw the man described by police, but "nothing has materialized at this point," Smith said Friday evening.

Many downtown Concord businesses locked their doors after the shootings.

About 25 to 30 officers worked on the case throughout the day, as Sun-drop employees, friends and relatives filtered in and out of the building.

Several people who knew Barnhardt said she doted on her grandchildren and enjoyed traveling to places such as Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

They said she was supposed to take two of her granddaughters to a rehearsal Friday for their weekend dance recital. The girls were very close to their "Nana," they said.

She was one of those people who is happy-go-lucky and very bubbly all the time," said Charles Messina of Fort Mill, who said he's related to Barnhardt through marriage. He was at the scene Friday afternoon.

"Stuff like this makes me sick. To think somebody could take someone's life over something like this," Messina said. He drove to Concord to look for whoever shot Barnhardt.

Sun-drop is a relatively small bottling company founded in 1954. It is run by the King family of Concord, whose roots in soda bottling go back to 1904.

Efforts to reach the Kings were unsuccessful Friday.

In 2005, an Observer story said the company had 28 employees and annual gross sales of about $6 million and produced up to 5,000 cases of soda a day.