Body of missing North Carolina man found

Sheriff's office in North Carolina calls missing person case a possible kidnapping

The sheriff's office said Thomas A. Bryson, 68, left his home around 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday driving a silver Honda Ridgeline with a West Henderson Falcons tag on the front of the truck. (Photo credit: Henderson County Sheriff's Office)

MARION, N.C. (WATE/AP) — Having brought a rugged, six-day North Carolina manhunt to an end, authorities have found the body of the missing owner of the stolen truck the captured fugitive was driving.

This booking photo provided by McDowell County Sheriffs Office shows Phillip Michael Stroupe II, Thursday, July 27, 2017. Having brought a rugged, six-day North Carolina manhunt to an end, authorities are now desperately searching for the missing owner of the stolen truck the captured fugitive, Stroupe, was driving. Stroupe was arrested after a two-county chase at 1:30 a.m. Thursday, on U.S. Highway 70, west of Marion, about 50 miles away. (McDowell County Sheriffs Office via AP)

Investigators aren’t sure how Phillip Michael Stroupe II spent his time since he stole a mountain bike at gunpoint Saturday and pedaled into the Pisgah National Forest, but authorities have put those questions on the back burner as they try to retrace Stroupe’s final 17 hours of freedom and find the missing 68-year-old man, Henderson County Sheriff Charles McDonald said.

Tommy Bryson’s body was found Sunday night in North Carolina corn field, according to ABC affiliate WLOS. The search for Bryson extended into East Tennessee.

Bryson was last seen around 8:40 a.m. Wednesday on a surveillance camera driving away from his home in Mills River to pick up a family member for a medical appointment. He never made it there.

Stroupe was arrested after a two-county chase at 1:30 a.m. Thursday on U.S. Highway 70, west of Marion, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. He ran into a tomato field before he was taken into custody. Officers found a gun nearby, McDowell County sheriff’s spokeswoman Richelle Bailey said.

The sheriff wouldn’t call Stroupe a survivalist, but said he was in good shape and likely had been able to find food and water after he slipped into the woods Saturday. Stroupe was fleeing Transylvania County deputies who wanted him on a break-in charge.

Stroupe also had relatives near where he was arrested, including an aunt who was taken into custody after refusing to leave a law enforcement barricade, authorities said.

Stroupe was a “product of an enabling family and that’s been a problem for us,” McDonald said. He declined to give further details.

Phone messages left with the families of Bryson and Stroupe were not returned Thursday.

Stroupe faces drug, weapons and fleeing police charges in McDowell County. More charges will likely be filed in Transylvania and Henderson counties from his escape Saturday and what may have happened to Bryson on Wednesday, authorities said.

The search for Stroupe included hundreds of miles in the Pisgah National Forest, parts of which were closed to visitors. The U.S. Forest Service had two camps and two roads closed late Wednesday. It was not immediately clear when those areas would reopen.

An even bigger search area was being used to try to find Bryson, McDonald said at a news conference.

“He had a lot of time to cover a lot more ground. There are things we just aren’t certain of at this time,” the sheriff said.

Stroupe had just been released from the Yancey County jail July 20 and has spent most of the past two decades behind bars, according to North Carolina prison records.

In 1999, Stroupe was sentenced to more than 18 years, the maximum allowed, for felony robbery with a deadly weapon and as well as breaking and entering and false imprisonment. He was released from prison in April 2015.

Last month, Stroupe was named as a suspect in the armed robbery of a store in Weaverville. A few days later, he was attempting to flee authorities when he rammed a stolen car into a Buncombe County sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle, authorities said.

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