Saturday, September 30, 2023

Man sentenced to 20 years for home invasion that resulted in one death

James Girlee Hardy

WILMINGTON —  One man connected to a 2020 home invasion that left one person dead has pleaded guilty to his part in the crime.

James Girlee Hardy, age 41, will serve up to 20 years in prison for second-degree murder, attempted armed robbery and first-degree kidnapping, as determined by the New Hanover County Superior Court on Thursday.

On March 4, 2020, Hardy and another uncharged suspect broke into a blind man’s home on Pinecrest Parkway around 10:30 p.m., according to a release from the district attorney’s office. Donald Wayne Gurganious, 57, lived in the home and was shot in the chest during the break-in. He died after being transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

Also inside the home was a woman, who told authorities she was “held down by a man wearing a clown mask while the other suspect shot Gurganious after a brief struggle.” The woman was unharmed in the incident.

During the investigation, Wilmington Police Department gathered surveillance footage from nearby homes and businesses, in order to identify the vehicle Hardy drove to the scene. It was leased in Hardy’s his wife’s name and equipped with a GPS tracking device installed by the leaser. The system allowed detectives to map the vehicle’s movements that night.

Along with video images from the cameras, police saw Hardy and another man park and exit the car near Gurganious’ home. Within minutes, they left the scene in the same vehicle.

“Other images showed Hardy arriving at his home on South 4th Street shortly after leaving Pinecrest Parkway,” the release noted. 

When officers searched Hardy’s home, they recovered a handgun from his wife, in which ballistics testing confirmed it was the same gun used to kill Gurganious.

“Hardy ultimately confessed to his role in the robbery attempt, but claimed the other suspect shot Gurganious,” the release noted. “He told police that the two targeted Gurganious because they believed he had a large amount of pills inside of his residence.” 

No other arrests have been made in connection with this case. Wilmington Police Department asks the public to call (910) 343-3620 with more information.


Tips or comments? Email

Want to read more from PCD? Subscribe now and then sign up for our morning newsletter, Wilmington Wire, and get the headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.

Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

Related Articles