HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. – A prosecutor said he plans to seek the death penalty against a North Carolina fugitive who authorities say killed a man while on the run and stole his truck.
District Attorney Greg Newman said Monday he offered no deal to spare Phillip Michael Stroupe II's life if he led investigators to 68-year-old Thomas Bryson's body because he didn't deserve the offer. Bryson's body was found in a corn field Sunday night, four days after he disappeared.
"I don't think a lot of people appreciated how dangerous this Stroupe fellow is," Newman said at a news conference.
Police were trying to arrest Stroupe on a warrant involving a break-in when he stole a mountain bike at gunpoint on July 24 in the Pisgah National Forest about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Asheville.
Authorities closed the forest as they searched for him over several days. On Wednesday, Bryson disappeared just after he left his Mills Creek home.
Stroupe likely kidnapped Bryson just as he left and killed him within 30 minutes, Henderson County Sheriff Charles McDonald said. Neither McDonald nor Newman would say how Bryson was killed, saying it could hamper their investigation and Stroupe's prosecution.
Bryson's body was found by a relative who is a firefighter and knew details of the search. The relative found the body in a different area than where officials had been looking, and believes he was led to the site by "divine intervention," McDonald said.
Stroupe, who was captured Thursday, was awaiting a first court appearance on the first-degree murder charge. It wasn't known if he had a lawyer. Authorities also charged four people who knew Stroupe, including his father, with accessory after the fact for helping him hide from police.
Two of them told WLOS-TV they didn't call authorities after Stroupe showed up because they feared for their lives and didn't think they would be believed because they had extensive criminal records.
Frederick Badgero Jr. said Stroupe came to his girlfriend Jennifer Hawkins' house and ordered her and her daughter inside.
"He showed me the gun and stuff and showed two spent bullets and said he'd do it to them if I didn't do what he said," Badgero told the TV station. "And now I'm sitting here with charges on me that I didn't do."
The sheriff said that wasn't the whole story, but declined to give details.
"I would just say talk is cheap," McDonald said.
Stroupe, 39, has spent most of the past two decades behind bars on charges including robbery with a dangerous weapon and false imprisonment, according to North Carolina prison records.
Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com