BURKE COUNTY, N.C. – A long and complex manhunt for a man police say shot and killed his mother, father and a U.S. Forestry Service officer ended with the suspect’s death.
Police first went to the parents’ home in the 5500 block of Fish Hatchery Road around 8:45 a.m. Wednesday for a welfare check. Friends told police they hadn’t seen Levi and Rhonda Whisnant since last Friday.
Sheriff Steve Whisenant says it appears they died at least a day ago.
The discovery of the homicides was just beginning of a wild series of incidents in the search for the suspect.
The sheriff’s office quickly named the victims’ son, 38-year-old Troy Whisnant, as a person of interest. The case trickled into a North Carolina Highway Patrol investigation when troopers arrived on scene to assist. The highway patrol suspected Whisnant was also behind two recent vehicle thefts.
Deputies found the second stolen vehicle off of Old Table Rock Road. They say Whisnant abandoned the car and took off through the woods once authorities spotted him.
The suspect came across a U.S. Forestry Service officer as he ran. Whisnant shot and killed the officer, says the sheriff. The Forestry Service identified him as 38-year-old Jason Crisp, who worked with the department for 10 years. Whisnant also killed Crisp's K-9, Maros.
After killing his third victim, says the suspect stole the officer’s weapons and fled again.
The manhunt concluded when an Avery County deputy and two troopers with NCHP found Whisnant. They exchanged gunfire. At least one bullet struck and killed the Whisnant.
Ahead of the chase through the wooded area, the Burke County Sheriff’s Office says Whisnant also broke into a neighbor’s shed to steal weapons, and crashed the first vehicle he stole and fled that scene.
Whisnant has several criminal charges to his name, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety online database. NBC Charlotte ran his name and found more than a dozen prior charges.
Whisnant has been convicted of possession of stolen goods, multiple times of resisting an officer, drug charges and assault on a public official.
The most serious is a manslaughter charge in 1997, but because it’s a lower level felony, records show he served only about a year.
The FBI is handling the U.S. Forest officer shooting. The SBI is handling the shooting of Whisnant.
Freedom High School was put on a soft lockdown at 12:30 p.m. because of the investigation, meaning exterior gates were locked but students could walk about the campus. The school dismissed at 2:50 p.m.
Multiple agencies assisted in this investigation including: Burke County Sheriff’s Office, NC Highway Patrol, Avery County, Caldwell County, US Forestry Service, Morganton Public Safety, NC DOT, Watauga County, SBI, FBI, NC Wildlife, ALE, NC Licenses and Theft Bureau, Valdese Police Department, Glen Alpine Police Department, Drexel Police Department, Burke Emergency Services, Lake James Fire Department and Oak Hill Fire Department.