For days, Catherine Brooks couldn’t reach her daughter.
Brooks emailed Patricia Walker and called her West Ashley house but spoke only with Walker’s 21-year-old grandson. He was the only other person home as Walker’s husband was out of state.
He said Walker was sick and bedridden. She couldn’t come to the phone.
When the man said Walker had coffee and toast for breakfast Sunday, Brooks knew something was wrong: Her daughter didn’t eat toast.
Frustrated, Brooks drove from Columbia to her daughter’s three-story home at 958 Orange Grove Road. She failed to rouse Walker, so police were summoned.
Officers entered the home through a window around 5 p.m. Sunday. They found the 59-year-old dead in her locked bedroom. She had been shot in the back of her head.
The coroner’s office on Monday confirmed that was the wound that killed her but wouldn’t say how many times she had been shot or how long she had been dead.
“I didn’t want to go to bed that night without knowing what was wrong,” said Brooks, who last exchanged emails with her daughter Thursday. “Now, I would give the rest of my life just to spend another hour with her.”
It was a violent death for a woman who used her financial standing to give back to her community. She had worked as a clerk for 32 years at the Port of Charleston, a vocation through which she met her husband, Norman W. Pinkleton, a retired stevedore.
She crocheted hats that she donated to cancer patients, sent potted plants to families of deployed service members and bought gifts for neighborhood children.
And she adopted her grandson as a toddler. Walker thought the child would have a better life with her than with his mother, who had struggled with drug abuse.
But Walker Wayne Pinkleton, whose name is a combination of his adoptive parents’, is now a person of interest in Walker’s death, Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis said. Court affidavits state that Pinkleton had a narcotics problem, and that Walker had installed a deadbolt on her bedroom door to prevent him from stealing items.
Neighbors spotted Pinkleton during the weekend driving his mother’s Smart car and Ford Excursion, a strange sight because they knew his license had been suspended.
“I waved, and he waved back,” said Matt Elam, a 53-year-old neighbor who has known the family for two decades and described Pinkleton as quiet but polite. “He usually smiled, but his face was kind of blank this time.”
Officers arrested Pinkleton around 3 a.m. Monday on charges that he stole the Ford; his adoptive father said he wasn’t allowed to drive it.
As his bail was set Monday at $50,000 for the grand larceny count, Pinkleton said he didn’t work, that his parents supported him and that he has post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I am living on Social Security,” he told Magistrate Linda Lombard. “I have PTSD and other mental disability.”
Pinkleton had been convicted of a February 2010 burglary at a home on Somerset Circle in West Ashley, where video games and eight rifles and shotguns were stolen.
When Pinkleton was arrested three days after the incident, officers who searched his Jeep found a bottle of the prescribed painkiller Mepergan.
Pinkleton also was arrested in September 2011 after authorities said he drove away from a crash outside a Wendy’s restaurant in North Charleston. Officers also uncovered the painkiller hydrocodone in his Mercedes, according to a report.
Neighbors along Orange Grove Road said they knew of Pinkleton’s problems but that his adoptive parents tried to help him.
“Just trying to stay out of trouble and live life to the fullest,” Pinkleton wrote on his Facebook page in May. “Thinking ’bout starting school this summer and do something with myself instead of just sitting round.”
Walker and her family were widely known in the community.
Her husband of 27 years kept eye-catching antique cars, including one that neighbors said appeared in the film “The Notebook.”
They also maintained two other homes in the area, including a log cabin on Johns Island.
As a clerk at the Port of Charleston since November 1980, Walker made connections with truck drivers and other workers throughout the state agency.
“Her death is a loss for our organization,” said Allison Skipper, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Ports Authority. “She was very well-liked and respected here.”
Walker was known to speak her mind, whether to family members, to motorists speeding through her community or to owners of dogs conducting their business on her land.
That’s how Lynda McCandless got to know Walker about a year ago. McCandless walks her dogs daily, and Walker started joining her.
Their last excursion came Wednesday. On the days that followed, McCandless got the same explanation relayed to relatives: She was sick.
When McCandless ventured out Sunday night, police already made the gruesome discovery.
“This is awful,” McCandless said. “I just knew something wasn’t right.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.