As police continued their search for the man suspected of shooting his longtime girlfriend and her friend outside a Bronx motel late Saturday, their neighbors in Elmont voiced shock Sunday at the couple's death.
Tracy Bennett, 38, of Keller Avenue in Elmont and Wayne Hamilton, 50, of Milwaukee, were shot outside the office of the Holiday Motel on Conner Street and the New England Thruway, the NYPD said.
Police said Sunday they were looking for Joseph Kernizan, 42, who lived with Bennett. Neighbors said he was her children's father.
"I never saw any sign of hostility," said Scharisse Johnson, 46, who lives across the street. "They were still together that I know of."
Public records show both Bennett and Kernizan were owners of the home they shared on Keller Avenue.
"I knew them about 13 years," Johnson said. "She was a very beautiful lady, caring, nice lady. Great mom. Father was pleasant, nice guy, easy to get along with. He was a good guy."
Errol Joseph, 23, who lives next door and has known the family for three years, said he was close with them and never saw any sign of hostility.
He said Kernizan was at the house all the time playing with their three children -- as recently as this week.
Johnson said Bennett was a nurse.
A witness at the Bronx motel where Bennett and Hamilton were killed said she was heard begging the gunman not to shoot.
Ricky Gugliotta of the Bronx heard her plead, " 'Please no, don't do it,' " he said. "But he shot her twice and she fell down. She begged him not do it, but he shot her anyway."
A man who answered the phone at the motel on Saturday said he did not know whether the victims had been guests there. He said rates start at $40 for a three-hour stay.
Court records also show Kernizan had two civil judgments against him, one in August 2005 for $5,160 to CAVC of Colorado Llc., and one in September 2007 for $5,556 to Midland Funding Llc. Further details were not available Sunday.
Johnson said the couple's troubles "came out of nowhere" to residents of Keller Avenue.
"But in their home, who knows how long it was going on?" she said. "No one on this block can tell you they ever saw them fighting or carrying on."
The NYPD sought the public's help finding Kernizan. They said the public could call the department's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS, visit the Crime Stoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637, then enter TIP577.With Kevin Deutsch and Matthew Chayes