Manhunt for ‘armed and dangerous’ suspect takes toll on searchers, tourism
TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY, N.C. —
Another day of searching in the Pisgah National Forest led to one arrest and multiple challenges for law enforcement and the local tourism industry.
Deputies said Phillip Stroupe, 38, of Weaverville, was released from the Yancey County
Detention Center on Thursday, stole a mountain bike at gunpoint Saturday morning and vanished into woods.
Since then, Captain Jeremy Queen, with the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office,
said a manhunt for Stroupe has covered hundreds of acres over rugged terrain.
“We’re dealing with someone who doesn’t want to be found,” Queen said. “He’s
not making it easy on us. Hopefully, he’ll get smart and, after a while, get tired and hungry and decide to just lay down his firearm and turn himself in.”
Initially, investigators said Stroupe was spotted in a vehicle believed to be connected to a burglary in Mill’s River. On Monday, authorities said they no longer believe the vehicle is tied to the crime and have no evidence that Stroupe is connected to the crime.
Stroupe does face charges in Yancey County and is wanted in Buncombe County for failure to appear in court in regards to a kidnapping charge.
Authorities have warned the public about criminal charges for helping the suspect elude law enforcement.
Queen said investigators could not say for certain whether anyone was actively trying to
assist Stroupe, but deputies arrested his aunt, Norma Stroupe Goforth, after she refused to leave the search area.
Over the weekend, authorities closed off parts of the national park to th public.
Sheri Hiestand and her band of young campers did not learn about the closures until barricades greeted them at the entrance of the park. They drove from Muncie, Indiana, and stopped by to see Sliding Rock.
“We’re just really glad and very thankful that the good Lord kept us safe, and we did not go up in there before all this happened,” Hiestand said. “We prayed for safety before we left, so God answers prayer.”
Andrew Currin had also planned to visit Sliding Rock.
“I would rather it be blocked off than kind of being at risk of being in danger or something like that,” Currin said.
Businesses located near the barricade said they hope searchers find Stroupe soon because they count on heavy tourism traffic.
Bradley Collins, who has a tube rental business, spent much of Monday watching potential customers drive away.
“I usually have around 150 people come and rent tubes. This parking lot is packed,” Collins said. “Today, I’ve had five people come.”
Queen said search crews have had a tough time dealing with the heat and the rugged terrain, and they’re trying to find ways to better handle the challenging conditions.
“We’re trying work out the logistics of hydration and rest and keeping the folks going with equipment and resources,” Queen said.