LAWRENCEVILLE - Just hours before he was found shot to death in a hotel parking lot Wednesday, several colleagues of Robert Lovelace spoke with the Griffin car salesman who earned wealth and a legion of friends in a career that spanned 25 years.
Rested, Lovelace was looking forward to returning from vacation and hitting the sales floor again, they say.
"He was all excited about coming back," said James Mills, a sales representative at Griffin-based Cronic Automotive Group where Lovelace worked for 12 years. "He had some appointments set up. He had a check here, waiting."
He never got that chance.
Lovelace, 50, was gunned down in a Holiday Inn Express parking lot in Stone Mountain after an alleged altercation with two black men, according to police.
A guest who had just checked in heard the gunshot Wednesday, saw Lovelace bleeding on the ground outside and alerted hotel management, according to hotel manager Danny Detal. The shooting happened in a tucked-away, side-entrance parking lot without video surveillance. Lovelace was not a registered guest.
He was transported and died later at Gwinnett Medical Center.
Authorities have no motive in the slaying and have yet to release descriptions of the two suspects.
Mark Hopkins, who said he knew Lovelace for 15 years, said his friend "wasn't your typical car salesman." Instead, he said, Lovelace prided himself on a no pressure approach to solidifying deals. This earned Hopkins' respect and money: He bought 18 cars from Lovelace. This, in part, afforded Lovelace a posh lifestyle, including a prodigious home in Buckhead at one point, Hopkins said. His most recent address was in the 1700 block of Riverside Drive in Atlanta, a scenic stretch of neighborhoods near Sandy Springs and the Chattahoochee River.
Lovelace, Hopkins said, enjoyed lifting weights and had a daughter who lives in California.
"He was a likable guy," he said. "You'd meet him, you'd like him immediately.
"It's a big shock. I just can't imagine something like this happening. Something was wrong there, it's my gut feeling."
Anyone with any information is asked to call Gwinnett County Police at 770-513-5300.