Phillip Michael Stroupe, the subject of a five-day, multi-agency search in the Pisgah National Forest, was captured early Thursday in McDowell County, officials said.
But officials are now searching for another man they say Stroupe possibly kidnapped while he was at large.
The disappearance of Thomas A. Bryson, 68, of the South Mills River Road area in Henderson County, was announced Wednesday morning. Posts by the sheriff’s offices in Henderson and Transylvania counties show they began considering the cases possibly connected Wednesday evening.
An update Thursday afternoon indicated detectives have reason to believe Stroupe may have traveled to eastern Tennessee prior to the chase that led to his arrest. For that reason, they are urging people in both western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee to contact local police with any information they may have in Bryson's whereabouts.
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McDowell County sheriff’s deputies were notified about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday of a possible sighting of Stroupe, 39, of Burnsville, northeast of Asheville.
Officials said Stroupe was driving a silver Honda Ridgeline, owned by Thomas Bryson, when he evaded officers in Yancey County and headed south on N.C. 80 into McDowell County.
“The sheriff’s office and Marion police got in a position to intercept the vehicle,” McDowell County Sheriff Dudley Greene said in a statement. “They used stop sticks, which were effective.”
After traveling about a mile on U.S. 70, Stroupe reportedly exited through the truck’s window and fled into a tomato field. The many agencies involved in the days-long manhunt responded to the scene, including the U.S. Marshals Service and State Bureau of Investigation. McDowell County officials said Stroupe was apprehended about 1:30 a.m. Thursday near Marion.
“We found a handgun in a field between where he left the vehicle and where he was apprehended that is likely associated with him,” Greene said. “He was also found to be in possession of a small amount of methamphetamine.”
McDowell officials charged Stroupe with possession of the drug and with fleeing to elude arrest, failure to stop at a red light, reckless driving and possession of a firearm by a felon. He was being held on $100,000 bond with a first court appearance set for Friday, officials said.
The saga began when Stroupe was identified Saturday as the driver of a vehicle matching the description of one involved in a breaking and entering in Mills River, near the border of Henderson and Transylvania counties.
A Transylvania County deputy spotted the vehicle on Avery’s Creek Road, where Stroupe reportedly stopped long enough to rob a person of a mountain bike at gunpoint before blocking the road with the vehicle and riding the bike into the woods.
As the search carried on, U.S. Forest Service officials shut down areas of the forest.
Stroupe is wanted for an alleged kidnapping in Buncombe County, authorities said. Court records show he was charged in Buncombe earlier this year with armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon on a government official, possession of s stolen vehicle, fleeing from police and misdemeanor larceny. He was also charged this year with identity theft and fleeing to elude authorities in Yancey County.
Henderson County Sheriff Charles McDonald posted to Facebook on Thursday afternoon to thank people for offering to help in the search for Bryson, but asked that people leave the task to law enforcement.
“The two things that I would ask of our community at this time are; one, continue the prayers going out for Thomas Bryson’s safe return, and two, continue to pass along any information that may assist us in our investigation and search,” McDonald wrote.