NORTH ANDOVER — Any one of his neighbors would have opened the door to Salvatore “Sam” Guglielmino, a “gentle giant” who cared tenderly for his aging mother and swept snow off friends’ cars in the winter.
But officials say that at some point before 9 on Tuesday morning, Guglielmino went to the apartments of the three men who shared his building and beat them
“Everybody knew Sam — everybody,’’ said Patricia Bonanno, who lived in the housing complex at Foulds Terrace for five years and knew Guglielmino and all three of the men he allegedly killed. “He was big. He was nice. And I’m telling you, he loved his mother.”
Police found the bodies at 10 Foulds Terrace, which is part of a complex for the elderly and disabled, shortly after someone called 911 at 9:07 a.m. to report a man “face down” and needing assistance.
Investigators have not said how — or why — Guglielmino allegedly turned on his neighbors.
A law enforcement official briefed on the case said investigators are trying to determine if the three men were killed with bare hands or a weapon. No weapon has been recovered, the official said.
“We have no motive at this time that we can comment on,” said Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. Guglielmino had “no recent history” with the police, he said.
Officials identified two of the victims as Walter Hamilton, 78, and George Kettinger Jr., 79. They did not name the third man because his family has not been notified of his death, but said he was 68 years old. Blodgett said the men suffered “blunt-force trauma mostly to the facial area.”
Guglielmino, 57, is scheduled to appear in Lawrence District Court Wednesday to face three counts of murder, Blodgett said.
“I don’t know what happened to him,” said Guglielmino’s uncle, Angelo Guglielmino, 81, who lives in the same complex as his nephew. “He was on medication. Maybe he got off it. He suffers from bipolar. He might have snapped, you know? He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Angelo Guglielmino said he last saw his nephew a few days ago, and everything seemed fine. The younger man never mentioned his neighbors or any problems. About 30 years ago, the uncle said, his nephew was arrested and briefly jailed after speeding through a traffic light, refusing to stop, and fighting with police.
But ever since, he said, his nephew has stayed out of trouble.
A spokeswoman for Blodgett said she could not confirm that account. Reached by phone, Guglielmino’s sister declined to comment, and said his mother, who lives in a separate apartment in Foulds Terrace, was too upset to speak.
The killings stunned the residents of Foulds Terrace, a quiet cluster of brick apartments on a tiny street off Route 125. The sight of Salvatore Guglielmino strolling the grounds or doing his mother’s laundry was a familiar one. So was the sight of Hamilton walking his tiny dog; Kettinger sitting on the porch of the community center in the summer; and the third victim riding his moped, delivering coffees to police officers and friends up and down Main Street.
On Tuesday, however, the residents opened their windows to see flashing lights.
One woman, who declined to give her name for privacy reasons, said she looked out to see police putting a handcuffed Guglielmino in the back seat of a cruiser, then taking him back out to frisk him.
“I didn’t see any blood,” she said. “I had no clue at the time what the reason might be that he was being arrested. He was sad-looking. He just — he was very gentle; he wasn’t resisting at all.”
She said Guglielmino would clear snow off his neighbors’ cars without being asked. Some thanked him with baked goods, she said.
Patricia Bonanno said she lived in the same building as Guglielmino’s mother, who was ill, and she often saw Guglielmino going in and out.
“Sam loved his mother; he took care of his mother,” she said. “He would spend nights at his mother’s apartment. We would see him walking, carrying his bed pillow because he was going to spend the night apparently on her couch.”
He was a big man, Bonanno said, but Guglielmino did everything “in slow motion.” She would tell him what a good son he was, and he would respond, in his slow cadence, “Well, I don’t know, I do the best I can for her.”
Two of the victims, Hamilton and Kettinger, grew up in North Andover, Bonanno said. She described them as “gentlemen.” Hamilton had a little dog that went everywhere with him — even to do his laundry — and in the summer, residents would often come and fuss over the animal.
Bonanno said she used to sit on the porch with Kettinger in the summer, talking about the old days, when he worked as an electrician. Kettinger spent every New Year on the Cape with his longtime love, and the two traveled the world with his church group, going to Spain and Ireland, she said.
“He was a wonderful, kind, loving person. Do anything for anyone. And just a righteous man,” said Kettinger’s sister-in-law, Cheryl Kettinger. “I can’t understand any of it.”
A woman who answered the door at a home listed to Hamilton’s relative declined to comment.
Irene O’Brien, director of elder services for the North Andover Council on Aging, said the third victim, whose name has not been announced, was an “unsung hero” and a fixture on Main Street, who would traverse the roadway on a moped delivering coffee to police officers and other people he knew.
The victim delivered the newspaper every morning to the receptionist at the town senior center on Main Street, she said, and was known for his trips to Lawrence to buy Syrian bread. Before every trip, she said, he always asked if anyone else wanted bread and volunteered to buy extra.
An interfaith service of “prayer and comfort” will be held at St. Michael Parish on Wednesday at 7 p.m., the Rev. Kevin Deeley said. The town of North Andover will host a “support circle” at the senior center Thursday for residents of the Foulds Terrace complex and others who need to talk, said Town Manager Andrew W. Maylor.
The session is scheduled to start at 10 a.m., and transportation between Foulds Terrace and the senior center will be provided, Maylor said.
All day Tuesday, people streamed into the senior center, said O’Brien, dumbstruck by the news of the men’s deaths.
“They all made us laugh,” she said. “Each one of them had their gifts.”