Amid an applauding group of onlookers, New Hanover County sheriff's deputies arrested 33-year-old Gerard Altman for the murders of Laura and Jim Gallagher on Thursday. The 911 call came in Wednesday morning. Caller: We've been trying to contact these people for two weeks. We're friends and we've decided to come over. We looked in the back window and we saw pill bottles. Dispatcher: OK. What's the name of the people you're looking for? Caller: Laura Gallagher and Jim Gallagher. And there may be a third party involved. We don't know because we can't reach her son. We've been trying to track him down too. It was that call that set the search for the Gallaghers' killer in motion. Detectives' prime suspect, 33-year-old Gerard Altman, was taken in to custody a little more than 24 hours after the Gallaghers' bodies were found. "It appears to be a very brutal and cold blooded murder,” said Dep. Charles Smith of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. Altman was staying with a friend at the Reserve Apartments. His friend apparently didn't know about the warrants for his arrest, but after seeing Altman's picture was all over the TV and papers, that friend called 911. The Wilmington Police Department and Sheriff's Office worked together to get Altman in to custody. Lindsey Caldwell witnessed the arrest. “There was a SWAT team a whole mess of them, surrounding the whole building guns and all,” Caldwell said. Investigators still haven't disclosed a motive for the murder and haven't officially released the Gallaghers' cause of death. Friends of the Gallaghers said Jim was battling cancer and was a retired New York police officer. Both he and Laura were well-loved by many people in the community. Altman served 13 years in a New York state prison for 2nd-degree robbery. He was released in 2007. He is expected to go before a judge Friday morning. The bodies of the victims are being sent to Chapel Hill for autopsy.
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