Warrants: Bryson's silver truck was spray-painted black after Stroupe stole it

Henderson County authorities released photos of Tommy Bryson's Honda Ridgeline after Phillip Stroupe II's capture. Warrants say Stoupe tried to disguise Bryson's truck while he was on the run from authorities last week. (Photo credit: Henderson County Sheriff's Office)

The Henderson County Sheriff's Office released new photos of the stolen truck they say Phillip Stroupe II was driving at the time of his arrest.

The photos confirm new information from Buncombe County warrants that the bottom half of Thomas Bryson's silver 2007 Honda Ridgeline truck "had been recently spray painted black" when Stroupe was arrested while in possession of the truck on Thursday, July 27.

The search warrants were issued July 29, but were not released Wednesday.

Deputies say Stroupe kidnapped Bryson and took his truck sometime around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 26.

Stroupe was arrested less than 24 hours later in McDowell County. Bryson was missing for nearly five days before his body was found by a relative searching a corn field in Arden on Sunday night.

Warrants also said while conducting a follow-up investigation in Barnardsville at the home of Jennifer Hawkins, detectives found black spray paint "consistent in appearance with the black colored paint discovered on Bryson's vehicle at the time of Stroupe's arrest".

Jennifer Hawkins and Frederick Badgero, along with Larry Hawkins III, were charged Monday with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder after Stroupe was charged in Bryson's death.

News 13 spoke exclusively to Hawkins and Badgero on Saturday. At the time, they said they didn't commit any crimes. They claim Stroupe had a gun and they were just doing what he said.

"We didn't give him shelter. He stayed outside in the truck most of the time he was there," Jennifer Hawkins told News 13, adding that time was about five hours. "We told him we couldn't help him and wanted this to go away. And now we're facing serious charges, and I've lost my job over something that I didn't do."

The warrants also present a detailed timeline of the events late Wednesday night and into Thursday, when Stroupe was captured.

"The pursuit involving Bryson's vehicle that resulted in Stroupe's arrest was initiated on the Blue Ridge Parkway. At the time that law enforcement attempted to stop Stroupe in Bryson's vehicle, law enforcement observed a vehicle similar in description of Hawkins 2015 Toyota Corolla, which appeared to be traveling with Bryson's vehicle that Stroupe was operating."

After law enforcement tried to stop Stroupe, warrants said Jennifer Hawkins' 2015 Toyota Corolla "returned to the approximately 2:08 a.m. on July 27, 2017."

The items seized from Hawkins' Corolla include "interior and exterior photographs," warrants said, as well as two cell phones and one "trim piece from back driver's side passenger area."

A representative of the Henderson County Sheriff's Office issued a news release Wednesday asking anyone in eastern Tennessee or western North Carolina who may have seen the Ridgeline in its altered state to contact the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office at 828-697-4911.

The release stated Bryson's truck had "a West Henderson Falcons tag on the front and a West Henderson magnet on the back of the vehicle."

"Businesses in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Dandridge, TN as well as Western NC" are being urged by the Henderson County Sheriff's Office "to check their security cameras for information."

Relatives told News 13 on Thursday that the truck originally belonged to Tommy Bryson's brother Arnold, and that it was given to Tommy sometime after Arnold died in February 2011.

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