4-agency manhunt nabs suspect

Published 6:59 pm Monday, July 8, 2013

Stephen Thorp

Stephen Thorp


A 12-hour manhunt by four eastern North Carolina law enforcement agencies led to the arrest of a Chocowinity teen Saturday.

Stephen Thorp, 18, made his first appearance in court Monday morning. He has been charged with felony hit and run for an accident that took place in the early hours of Saturday morning. But it was the death of one of Thorp’s passengers and officials’ belief that alcohol was involved in the single-vehicle accident that could lead to more charges, according to 1st Sgt. Brandon Craft, of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, Troop A.

Authorities were alerted to the accident on West Barr Road in Chocowinity when one of the survivors, 25-year-old Matthew Tharp, called 911. Thorp, Tharp and a female friend, 23-year-old Marquise Brewer, were all sitting in the front seat of a 1997 Chevy pick-up truck when Thorp ran off the right side of the road in a curve and over-corrected. The truck hit a culvert and overturned, landing upright in a shallow canal, Craft explained.

None of them were wearing seatbelts, he said.

Brewer, visiting from Louisiana, was sitting between the two men and ultimately ended up in the back seat. She was airlifted to Vidant Medical Center where she died of head injuries; Tharp was taken to Vidant-Beaufort Hospital, where he was treated and released.

Thorp, the driver, wouldn’t be found until 5 p.m. Saturday, when law enforcement tracked him down in Pitt County.

“He left the scene and left them there,” Craft said.

According to Craft, Thorp initially fled to his father’s house, located just up the road from the scene of the accident, but later caught a ride to Pitt County, intending to go to a friend’s house. Instead, from a NCSHP helicopter, troopers searched from above, while on the ground, officers with Alcohol Law Enforcement, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and Pitt County Sheriff’s Office searched from below, before finding Thorp in a wooded area off of N.C. Highway 102 near N.C. Highway 43.

“We couldn’t have done it without their help. The partnership and cooperation of everyone working together was what got this guy caught,” Craft said. “It was unbelievable how hard everyone worked and we’re very appreciative of that.”

Based on an ongoing investigation by Alcohol Law Enforcement officers and NCSHP’s accident reconstruction, more charges for Thorp may be coming, Craft said.

“We’re pretty confident alcohol was involved,” he said. “ALE is doing an investigation as to who may have provided alcohol to the minor.”

Though the wreck included no other vehicles, the felony hit and run charge stems from the fact that Thorp had “a duty to stay at the scene” of the accident, Craft said.