Manhunt suspect caught driving missing man's truck, search ongoi - FOX Carolina 21

Manhunt suspect caught driving missing man's truck, search ongoing for missing man

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Norma Stroupe Goforth (Source: TCSO) Norma Stroupe Goforth (Source: TCSO)
Road blocked near manhunt in Transylvania County. (July 23, 2017/FOX Carolina) Road blocked near manhunt in Transylvania County. (July 23, 2017/FOX Carolina)
Phillip Stroupe was captured Thursday driving Thomas Bryson's vehicle (File images) Phillip Stroupe was captured Thursday driving Thomas Bryson's vehicle (File images)
Road blocked near manhunt in Transylvania County. (July 23, 2017/FOX Carolina) Road blocked near manhunt in Transylvania County. (July 23, 2017/FOX Carolina)
Stroupe appears in court (FOX Carolina/ July 28, 2017) Stroupe appears in court (FOX Carolina/ July 28, 2017)
BREVARD, NC (FOX Carolina) -

On Thursday, a six-day long manhunt for Jeremy Stroupe II, who Transylvania County deputies said led them on a chase, robbed a victim at gunpoint and then took off with the victim's bike into the Pisgah National Forest on Saturday, ended in McDowell County, where deputies said Stroupe was found driving a missing man's truck.

How the manhunt began

Sheriff David Mahoney of the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office said deputies closed the area near Sliding Rock to search for a suspect on Saturday.

Deputies said they received a BOLO from Henderson County in reference to a suspect vehicle involved in a breaking and entering in Mills River near the Transylvania and Henderson County line Saturday morning. Later the same morning, Transylvania County patrol deputies located a vehicle that matched the suspect vehicle description, in Pisgah National Forest, just off Highway 276 North.

Suspect leads deputies on chase, robs victim at gunpoint

Deputies said a vehicle pursuit ensued when a patrol deputy tried to initiate a traffic stop on Avery's Creek Road, and the suspect refused to cooperate.

According to deputies, the suspect continued on Avery's Creek Road and at one point, exited his vehicle and stole a mountain bike from a victim at gunpoint.

The suspect then placed the stolen bike in his vehicle and the pursuit continued.

Deputies said the suspect then blocked the roadway, parking his vehicle sideways, before getting on the stolen mountain bike and taking off into the woods.

Deputies said a perimeter was established in the area and the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office Special Response Team was called out to attempt to locate the suspect.

Manhunt continues overnight Saturday

Brevard Police Department, the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement, NC State Highway Patrol and helicopter support, Henderson County Sheriff’s Office and Special Response Team, the NC State Bureau of Investigation, and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office all assisted with the manhunt on Saturday.

The suspect was identified as Phillip Michael Stroupe II, 38, of Weaverville. He's described as about 5 feet, 8 inches tall with a small build, a shaved head and large, distinct tattoo on his neck, just under his chin.

They said he may have survivalist instincts or capabilities and is wearing a camouflage shirt. Deputies said Stroupe has gang affiliations and has spent considerable time in prison.

Deputies believe he is armed with a small-frame revolver and possibly an additional weapon. They say Stroupe has a known, violent history of resisting law enforcement.

“Right now we’re just preparing for the very worst and hoping for the very best in a safe conclusion," said Captain Jeremy Queen. “The best conclusion would be for him to give himself up at this point."

As of 11:11 p.m. Saturday, law enforcement were still on scene searching and Highway 276 North was still closed due to the incident. Department of Transportation officials said US 276 North and South directions near Brevard were closed with detours.

Suspect spotted by fisherman on Sunday

On Sunday, deputies said Stroupe was spotted in the morning by a fisherman. Deputies said Stroupe displayed a handgun but did not point it at the victim, who advised the suspect that if he left him alone he would place a call for him.

Deputies said after approximately 30 minutes, Stroupe returned to the woods and the victim called 911.

Deputies initially said the victim had been taken hostage and then freed, but later said new information revealed the victim was never kidnapped.

A backpack was dropped by the suspect when he was spotted by the fisherman, deputies said, and is being analyzed as evidence.

According to deputies, search crews heard a single gunshot in the distance, but they have no additional details at this time. It is not clear if the gunshot was connected to the search for Stroupe.

Search crews, law enforcement maintain perimeter as search continues

A perimeter was once again set up and a search initiated in the area Stroupe was last seen. Deputies said the area where he was last seen was being evacuated.

Just after noon on Sunday, deputies said the Pisgah Ranger District east of Highway 276 and south of Blue Ridge Parkway was closed effective immediately, including trails and roads in the Mills River area.

Weather presents difficulty during manhunt

Sheriff David Mahoney of the Transylvania County Sheriff's Office said that weather had taken its toll on search efforts, proving more challenging than expected.

Mahoney said the weather had caused erosion on trails, making it much more difficult for search crews to follow fresh tire tracks from what they believed to be the mountain bike Stroupe stole from a victim at gunpoint Saturday.

Search crews are working on operations plans for overnight and into Monday if necessary. Mahoney said the search will continue through the night, but will scale back due to safety concerns.

The perimeter will be maintained by special forces overnight.

Mahoney said it's possible Stroupe knows the area very well, but it's impossible to say.

The Sheriff also stressed that the public should remain cautious and on high alert. Mahoney said that anyone discovered to be assisting Stroupe, or in contact with him without disclosing it to law enforcement will be criminally charged.

Stroupe is considered armed and dangerous, and has a history of violence and resisting law enforcement. Deputies said he has outstanding warrants in Buncombe County for kidnapping, as well as pending charges in Yancey County.

"Just keep on praying for us that this will come to a conclusion very quickly," Queen said.

Suspect's relative arrested on Monday

Portions of Pisgah National Forest remained closed Monday between US 276 and the Blue Ridge Parkway as deputies continued to hunt for Stroupe. 

Deputies said Stroupe was believed to be in an area that they had contained and surrounded through Sunday night and into Monday morning. The perimeter was between Us 276 at Avis Creek, Yellow Gap Road, and Turkey Pen Gap.

During a news conference Monday morning, deputies revealed that Stroupe has a history of kidnapping, resisting arrest, and violence toward law enforcement. Deputies said Stroupe has active warrants for kidnapping out of Buncombe County and had just been released from jail in Jackson County on Thursday.

Deputies determined Stroupe is armed with a .38 caliber revolver and they believe he will not hesitate to use it. He is likely still traveling on the stolen mountain bike and deputies located fresh tracks on Sunday.

K-9s are using the scent from an item Stroupe left behind in the car to search the forest for him. Deputies said that, despite the rain, the dogs were still able to lead a track.

Deputies said campers with reservations at the Davidson River Camp were being allowed past the roadblock.

On Monday, deputies said they arrested 62-year-old Norma Stroupe Goforth, the suspect's aunt, who is charged with resist obstruct delay in connection with the case. Deputies said Goforth refused to leave the investigation perimeter after being asked to do so.

This may indicate the suspect is still in the search perimeter area, according to deputies, although they do not believe Goforth made contact with him.

Search expands into Henderson County on Tuesday

Deputies said Tuesday morning that the search was ongoing and Stroupe had not yet been located.

Search efforts continued across several hundred acres of a confined perimeter and deputies said they were following up on leads.

Deputies said about 40 law enforcement officers were combing the area and bloodhounds were searching along the river.

While both deputies and businesses at the entrance to the forest were growing frustrated, deputies said the community was showing it's support by donating water, sport drinks, snacks, dog treats, and other items. Deputies said the generous outpouring had left them searching for space to store the donated items.

Deputies said a Twitter account surfaced in the name of Phillip Stroupe, but investigators believe the account is fake.

Deputies don't believe Stroupe has access to batteries to power personal electronics at this point and said they have been unable to ping a cell phone signal from Stroupe's phone.

Henderson County deputies  announced a possible sighting of Stroupe was reported on Monday around 8 p.m. near the North Mills Recreation Area. As a result, deputies closed Whitaker Lane between North Mills River Road and Mills River Way.

U.S. Marshals take leads on search Wednesday

On Wednesday, Chief Deputy Jason Brown with the Henderson County Sheriff's Office said SWAT teams and deputies spent the overnight hours conducting mobile searches along the river and throughout the Mills River area.

Brown said the tip they received Monday was that a man matching Stroupe's description had been seen in the river. Brown said Wednesday that the tip seemed credible.

Brown said deputies would continue to follow up on tips received during the overnight operations using assets from multiple agencies but said the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force would take the lead on the search and the manhunt would be scaled down considerably.

Stroupe arrested, found driving missing man's truck

McDowell County Sheriff Dudley Greene confirmed Thursday morning that Stroupe had been arrested.

"It's been a long night, but we're certainly glad to bring this fugitive situation to a conclusion," Greene stated.

Greene said Stroupe was driving a missing Henderson County man's car when he was arrested after a short chase and foot pursuit.

Greene said the night's activity began around 10:40 on Wednesday when news of a possible sighting emerged that Stroupe may be traveling from Yancey County into McDowell County on Highway 80.

Greene said Marion police deployed stop stocks to intercept the vehicle on Highway 80. The stop sticks were successful but  short pursuit ensued and ended on Highway 70, where Stroupe abandoned the vehicle and ran into a field of crops. Deputies were able to catch and arrest Stroupe in the field, Greene said.

Greene said the vehicle Stroupe was driving was a Honda Ridgeline that belonged to 68-year-old Thomas Bryson, who went missing from his home in Mills River on Wednesday. 

Bryson was not in the vehicle when Stroupe was arrested.

The search for Bryson is ongoing.

Stroupe is being held at the McDowell County Law Enforcement Center on a $100,000 bond for his charges there. He is due to make his first appearance in court on Friday.

According to arrest warrants, Stroupe had a .36 caliber revolver in his possession when he ran from deputies.

"There was a firearm found a short distance from where he exited the vehicle, abandoned the vehicle and more or less between the area where he left the vehicle and where he was apprehended," Greene said.

Warrants show Stroupe is charged with running a red light, reckless driving to endanger, resisting a public officer, and possession of a firearm by a felon, 

Henderson County deputies said Bryson left his residence in the South Mills River Road area in Henderson County around 8:35 a.m. Wednesday wearing a dark plaid shirt, brown cargo shorts, and tennis shoes.

Henderson County Sheriff Charles McDonald said Bryson likely made contact with Stroupe between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and deputies are confident Stroupe is responsible for the disappearance.

"Our main focus in Henderson County right now is to locate Mr. Bryson," McDonald said.

McDonald said he's holding on to hope that Bryson will be found alive but was concerned given Stroupe's history.

“We’re talking about a guy who is very calculated in his criminal intent and very difficult to deal with, so I wouldn’t put anything past him," McDonald said of Stroupe.

McDonald said deputies are trying to determine the route Stroupe traveled in Bryson's truck. He said the route likely included Highway 280, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and roads in the Barnardsville area. Stroupe has relatives in the Barnardsville area.

They also believe ha may have traveled to eastern Tennessee before his capture.

The sheriff is asking people who may have traveled on the Blue Ridge Parkway between Transylvania and McDowell counties on Wednesday and may have seen the vehicle to call the sheriff's office at 828-697-4596.

Stroupe makes first court appearance

Phillip Stroupe made his first court appearance Friday morning.

The judge read the charges against him and set his next court date for August 14. The hearing will be a probable cause hearing.

READ MORE: Sheriff investigating man's disappearance near manhunt as possible kidnapping

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