News 13 Investigates: Why was Phillip Stroupe II released days before manhunt?

News 13 Investigates the criminal history of Phillip Stroupe, II. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Two days before a massive manhunt and killing of a Mills River man, the murder suspect was released from jail.

News 13 has learned that Phillip Stroupe II posted bond eight times in three counties in recent months.

His criminal history shows a clear pattern that some say should have been stopped sooner.


At just 19 years old, Phillip Stroupe II was already breaking the law.

Court records show Stroupe committed a robbery with a dangerous weapon on June 30, 1998, in Yancey County.

In the next year, he faced several more charges in McDowell County, from armed robbery to theft to breaking and entering.

In 1999, he was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Court records showed he was convicted on five charges, but served them concurrently.

Court records also show he was released early on April 15, 2015.

Since then, Stroupe was arrested eight more times, often bonding out the very same day.

In June, things turned more violent when Stroupe was charged in Buncombe County with robbery, assault a government official, possession of a stolen car, kidnapping and eluded an arrest.

He was also facing two charges in Madison County: larceny of a motor vehicle and communicating threats. His bond was $230,000 in Buncombe County and $5,000 in Madison County.

The Magistrate's Office says he bonded out on July 2.


Just a few weeks later, on July 19, Officer James Duncan was running radar on Highway 197 South. He said Stroupe flew by on a motorcycle, going 62 mph in a 35 mph zone.

"[I] encountered Mr. Stroupe on a motorcycle, speeding, and I attempted to stop Mr. Stroupe and that's when the chase ensued," Burnsville Police Officer James Duncan said.

Officer Duncan said Stroupe led him on a chase for a couple of miles until Stroupe finally wrecked.

"One of the curves he could not take, so he laid the motorcycle down. He wrecked," Officer Duncan recalled.

He was cooperative for the most part, but he was still acting a little suspicious.

Duncan said Stroupe gave him a fake ID and he didn't realize who Stroupe really was until back up arrived on scene.

"One of our deputies that had made contact with Stroupe on several occasions recognized him and knew exactly who he was," Officer Duncan said.

He said Stroupe was complaining of shoulder pain and asked to go to the hospital. After that, Officer Duncan took him to the Yancey County Jail where he was booked at 5:19 a.m. on July 20.

At 7:42 a.m., he bonded out.

The bond was $67,000 for fleeing and eluding arrest, no license, fictitious information to an officer, and identity theft. The Yancey County Clerk's Office told News 13 there was also a $2,000 bond for a larceny charge out of Buncombe County.

News 13 talked by phone with Stroupe's bail bondsman. He said Stroupe called him directly from jail, his parents met to co-sign and Stroupe quickly paid 10 percent of the bond.

Officer Duncan confirmed to News 13 that Stroupe had a significant amount of cash on him. He said while he was surprised Stroupe was able to post such a high bond so quickly, he supports the bond amount.

"I think the bond was appropriate for the charges and the previous charges he had had, but he had a significant amount of cash on him," Office Duncan said.

But about 48 hours later, Stroupe once again ran from authorities during a breaking and entering investigation.

This started a widespread manhunt for Stroupe that closed the Pisgah National Forest for five days and exhausted local law enforcement resources. He is now facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Thomas Bryson.


Since Stroupe's capture, there have been questions about why he was able to be released on bond with a lengthy criminal history and other pending charges.

Henderson County District Attorney Greg Newman said he was surprised he was released in Yancey County.

It's evident when you look at this that this man is a threat to the community.

Newman believes his bond should have been higher.

"It's troubling that with all these pending cases and court dates that the amounts were not raised. Obviously, any opportunity he had to be out and free was resulting in him being arrested and charged with new crimes, so I am curious as to why that wasn't taken into account more," Newman said.

News 13 went to the Yancey County Courthouse for answers.

Chief District Court Judge Ted McEntire couldn't talk on camera, but said he stands behind the bond decision.

He pointed out, that at the time, Stroupe had no outstanding warrants. He said the magistrate judge in the case should have had access to Stroupe's past and pending charges, and said the judge followed their policy correctly and did everything right.

News 13 got a copy of the bond policy for the 24th Judicial District, which includes Yancey County. Stroup's bond was set at the highest end of the range for each of his charges.

But, the policy also said other pending cases and criminal histories should be considered and can raise the bond above the guidelines.

The district attorney can also get involved in bond decisions. In fact, when Stroupe was finally found and captured days later in McDowell County, his bond was initially set at $100,000. Stroupe even requested that it be lowered, but McDowell County District Attorney Ted Bell stepped in and the judge raised his bond to $2 million.

News 13 talked by phone with the Yancey County District Attorney Seth Banks. He said their office was never even made aware of the case since Stroupe bonded out so quickly.

Stroupe is now being held without bond for first-degree murder in Henderson County.

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