The body of a 68-year-old Mills River man believed to have been kidnapped by Philip Michael Stroupe II, the armed felon who led police on a multi-day manhunt throughout Western North Carolina, was found Sunday night.
A member of the Skyland Fire and Rescue Department located the body of Thomas Bryson in a corn field off Ledbetter Road in Arden about 8:30 p.m. A cause of death had not yet been determined.
Henderson County Sheriff Charles McDonald said Stroupe will likely face murder charges in the coming days. Bryson's family has been notified.
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"Obviously this is not the outcome we would have liked to have," McDonald said.
Stroupe was in custody in McDowell County after Judge Laura Powell approved District Attorney Ted Bell's request to increase his bond from $100,000 to $2 million.
He faces a large variety of charges in Buncombe, Transylvania, Henderson, Yancey and McDowell counties.
Stroupe was captured Thursday in Yancey County. McDowell County Sheriff Dudley Greene said investigator recovered a black .38 caliber revolver in a tomato field Stroupe ran through during his escape.
The manhunt for Stroupe began last Saturday when a vehicle driven by Stroupe matching the description of one that had been used in a breaking and entering in Mills River was spotted by law enforcement.
Police said they chased the vehicle into Pisgah National Forest near Yellow Gap Road. Stroupe then exited the vehicle and robbed a man at gunpoint of his mountain bike.
Stroupe later threatened a fisherman with the revolver to give him a ride, but the man was able to persuade him to leave, authorities said.
Popular sections of Pisgah National Forest were closed for four and a half days as up to 70 law enforcement officers combed heavy terrain around the clock.
A break in the investigation came when a passing motorist spotted Stroupe on Monday night in the North Fork of Mills River near North Mills River Road.
Authorities believe Bryson was kidnapped in an area near where Stroupe was sighted by the motorist between 8:35 and 8:40 a.m. Wednesday as he was going to pick up a family member.
McDonald said in a Thursday news conference at Mills River United Methodist Church, where Bryson attended, that Stroupe is believed to have taken Bryson onto N.C. 280 and then onto the Blue Ridge Parkway before he turned onto N.C. 80 during a police chase that led to his capture.
Authorities were unsure at what point Bryson left the vehicle.
The Henderson County Sheriff's Office said in a press release that Stroupe crossed into eastern Tennessee near Gatlinburg and Sevierville sometime after 10 a.m. but declined to say whether Bryson was with him at the time.
Authorities apprehended Stroupe in McDowell County after an officer in Yancey County spotted him in a silver Honda Ridgeline owned by Bryson, McDowell Sheriff Dudley Greene said.
The chase leading to Stroupe's arrest covered parts of N.C. 80 and continued onto U.S. 70 West in Marion, where he was stopped with road spikes. He was captured on foot after fleeing through a tomato field around 1:30 a.m., Greene said in a Thursday morning meeting with reporters.
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