Three are charged in death of woman left to die on area highway
File photo of victim Sherry Tobeler at Rock Springs Campground
KEN H. FORTENBERRY
A night of drinking ended in an argument and the death of a Denver woman who was apparently run over by her own truck, then left for dead along Highway 150.
Three people are now facing charges in connection with the death of 54-year-old Sherry Jo Tobeler of 6674 Billie’s Way. Tobeler was hospitalized early Friday morning when a resident near Mack Ballard Road and East Highway 150 reportedly heard a woman screaming and found her on the roadway.
Lincoln County Sheriff’s officers arrested the suspects Monday, and they had first-appearance hearings Tuesday morning in Lincoln District Court. Two of the suspects are convicted felons with lengthy criminal records.
Sheriff David Carpenter credited good information from an anonymous source as the primary lead in the case.
Patricia Ann Warren Stroupe, 50, was arrested shortly before 7 p.m. Monday near her Southland Trail, Lincolnton, residence and charged with being an accessory after the fact of murder. She was taken before a magistrate and given a $75,000 secured bond.
Shortly before 8 p.m. officers apprehended Derek Allen Williams and Alesha Michelle Werner hiding out in a room at the Days Inn in Lincolnton. Williams, 25, of 421 Springs East Road, Lincolnton, is charged with felony second-degree murder and is jailed under a $500,000 secured bond.
Werner, 25, of 161 Lilly Trail, Maiden, is charged with being an accessory after the fact of murder. Werner’s bond was set at $125,000 secured.
Stroupe and Williams are no strangers to the law, and Williams had been out of the state prison system only a couple of months for a motor vehicle larceny conviction. Stroupe is his mother and was released from prison last year after a felony drug conviction.
The case began shortly after 3 a.m. last Friday when the Lincoln County Communication Center received a call about a female lying on the roadway. Lincoln County EMS rushed to the scene and treated the woman for what appeared to be road rash, according to first reports. Her injuries, however, turned out to be much worse.
The victim was badly confused and didn’t really know what had happened to her, according to Sheriff David Carpenter. The Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck she was driving when she left home was not at the scene, and a dog that was with her earlier in the evening was later found after it wandered up to a residence on East Maiden Road about five miles away.
Tobeler’s husband told officers that they got into an argument about 9 p.m. Thursday and she left the residence. Not long afterwards she was seen purchasing beer at the Denver Mart at the intersection of Business Highway 16 and Forney Hill Road. It was there that investigators believe she met Williams, whom she didn’t previously know, according to Sheriff Carpenter.
Sometime thereafter, all four of the people got into Tobeler’s truck and she drove them to the East End Pool Hall in Maiden and later to the Twin Oaks on Campground Road in Denver.
Sheriff Carpenter said that not long after the Twin Oaks closed, Tobeler was driving them all back to their houses when they got into some kind of a disturbance, and Tobeler refused to drive them any further. A fight may have broken out in the backseat between Stroupe and Werner. Williams was a front-seat passenger.
The sheriff said “everyone then exited the truck and got into an altercation.”
The sheriff said that a person who lives nearby heard “screaming and hollering and doors slamming.”
Tobeler called 911, and Williams jumped into the driver’s seat.
“The male (Williams) jumped into the driver’s seat, slammed the door to take off, and the victim grabbed the door handle as he was taking off. She was run over,” the sheriff said.
Tobeler was transported to CMC-Main where she underwent brain surgery. Detectives were unable to talk with her because of the injuries, but they worked throughout the weekend with what information they had, and began to zero in on three suspects. By Sunday night, Williams was interrogated by detectives and was not very cooperative, according to the sheriff. He was released, but was interviewed again Monday morning, and once again released.
The two other suspects – Stroupe and Werner – also were called in for questioning, but unlike Williams, they were cooperative, according to the sheriff.
On Monday, Lt. Tim Johnson and detective Mark Stamey received information that Tobeler’s truck may have been dumped in a pond on Gladden Drive off Springs East Road. With the assistance of the WSOC TV helicopter, detectives located the vehicle about 75 feet from shore, and it was pulled from the pond and stored at the Sheriff’s Office impound lot.
Meanwhile, Tobeler died from brain injuries.
Sheriff Carpenter said that after his arrest Monday night, Williams was again questioned by investigators and “he admitted that circumstances surrounding what happened.”
The sheriff said that Williams is claiming Tobeler’s death was an accident.
The sheriff, however, isn’t buying that claim.
“You don’t accidentally leave a person there and dispose of their vehicle in a pond.”