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3 accused of harboring Stroupe say they are unfairly charged, feared for their lives

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The three people accused of harboring accused kidnapper Phillip Stroupe say they did not help the fugitive as he sought to escape law enforcement.

Jennifer Hawkins and her boyfriend Frederick Badgero spoke with News 13 Saturday, saying they and Hawkins' nephew, Larry Hawkins III, did not know that Stroupe was wanted for the kidnapping for Thomas Bryson when Stroupe knocked at the door.

All three feel they were unfairly charged. Hawkins said that when the three refused to help Stroupe, he threatened their lives.

"He told me to come outside," Badgero said. "And I come outside, that's when he come outside and showed me the gun and stuff, and showed me two spent bullets and said he'd do it to them if I didn't do what he wanted." He gestured to Hawkins, indicating it was his girlfriend and her nephew that Stroupe had threatened.

The pair said that Stroupe forced Larry Hawkins and Badgero to help him dispose of Bryson's truck. When police pulled up behind them, it started the chase that led to Stroupe's arrest.

Jennifer said she does not know why Stroupe showed up at her home to ask her for help.

She also said Hawkins, who was also in custody on Saturday, turned himself in to police.

Sheriffs Duncan and McDonald, of Henderson and Buncombe County, said in a Saturday morning press conference telling the public that Jennifer Hawkins, her boyfriend Frederick Badgero, and her nephew Larry Hakwins III were charged with felony harboring an escapee.

Saturday morning, before we spoke with Hawkins and Badgero, the Buncombe County District Attorney said he is reviewing to determine if additional charges are appropriate against Hawkinses and Badgero. He said the potential exposure for any who helped Stroupe is life without parole, depending on what happened to Bryson after he encountered Phillip Stroupe.

Sheriff Duncan also said the three knew him before the manhunt.

The most important thing, certainly, is to find Mr. Bryson," said Sheriff McDonald of Henderson County. "We hope to find Mr. Bryson alive, but as time goes on, certainly, we have to expect the obvious. But for now, us and our search team are hoping that we will be able to turn up a lead, find him still alive, and bring him home safely."

The Henderson County Sheriff's office advises that there are additional searches for Thomas Bryson in South Mills River Saturday, where they say the initial contact between Stroupe and Bryson took place. Deputies ask people in the area to please allow search crews space to work.

Unnecessary travel to the area should be avoided to allow crews and equipment the access and space they need, deputies said in a release.

Tommy Bryson's truck was seen Wednesday morning on surveillance video as it came off South Mills River Road and turned north on Highway 280 toward Asheville. Investigators think Stroupe, who was armed, abducted Bryson minutes after Bryson left his home to take his sister to a doctor’s appointment.

Bryson never showed up at his sister’s house.

McDowell County District Attorney Ted Bell said Stroupe has been playing games with police who are trying to get him to divulge Bryson's location.

“I know police have been trying to get him to cooperate, to at least give a location,” said Bell. “If Mr. Bryson is no longer alive, to at least provide the location of the body so the family will have some closure. He's suggested what it would take to provide that information, but really kind of seems like he’s playing a game.”

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