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Burke sheriff: Suspect shot after killing 3, including officer

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/12/21/38/hWRKM.Em.138.jpeg|210
    JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
    Law enforcement officers gather at Mountain Grove United Methodist Church, where the command center was set up Wednesday for investigation of the Fish Hatchery Road incident that resulted in four dead. Rhonda and Levi Whisnant were found dead in their Fish Hatchery Road home on Wednesday morning. Police suspect their son, Troy, who was shot by law enforcement officers after a manhunt Wednesday afternoon. Troy Whisnant is also accused of shooting a U.S. Forestry officer who approached him.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/12/23/50/1nL7Gu.Em.138.jpg|209
    JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
    Crime scene tape hangs at the entrance to the home on Fish Hatchery Rd. in Burke County where two people were murdered by the slain gunman Wednesday afternoon.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/12/20/35/1np0Sh.Em.138.jpeg|478
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  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/12/21/39/6w2IS.Em.138.jpeg|209
    JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
    Crime-scene tape hangs at the entrance to the home on Fish Hatchery Road near Morganton where Rhonda and Levi Whisnant were found dead Wednesday morning. Police suspect their son, Troy, who was shot by law enforcement officers after a manhunt Wednesday afternoon.

MORGANTON The suspect in a double homicide in Burke County who was also accused of fatally shooting a U.S. Forest Service officer was killed by officers during a manhunt Wednesday afternoon.

Investigators identified the victims as Rhonda and Levi Whisnant, the parents of Troy David Whisnant, 38, who is suspected in their killings. The Forest Service officer killed was 38-year-old Jason Crisp, WBTV reported.

Around 9 a.m. Wednesday, investigators were called to the Whisnants’ house on Fish Hatchery Road to check their welfare. There, deputies found their bodies.

The Whisnants’ house near Morganton is in a heavily wooded, mountainous area, where homes are spaced far apart.

As the investigation went on, the N.C. Highway Patrol notified investigators that two cars had been reported stolen and may have been connected to their case.

Late Wednesday, investigators had not removed the bodies of Troy Whisnant and the Forestry officer from a wooded area and were preventing cars from going down the road.

More than 100 officers from about a half-dozen agencies joined in the manhunt.

Sheriff Steve Whisenant said after discovering the Whisnants’ bodies, police began to suspect Troy Whisnant, a felon who had spent time in prison. The sheriff said the manhunt focused on an area a mile in diameter from the house. Searchers located one of the stolen vehicles abandoned near Old Tabletop Road.

“We thought that we had him confined. We set up roadblocks on all the arteries, and we pretty much had him confined to a mile radius,” the sheriff said.

Around 3 p.m., Crisp and his search dog approached Troy Whisnant. Whisnant shot the officer and dog, took the officer’s gun and kept running, the sheriff said.

Shortly afterward, he was approached by an Avery County sheriff’s deputy and two state troopers. They told him to drop the weapon, the sheriff said. Whisnant fired one shot, and at least one officer returned fire, killing him.

The Burke County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the killings of Rhonda and Levi Whisnant. The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the suspect’s death. The FBI is investigating Crisp’s killing.

The sheriff said he did not know a motive. He said Troy Whisnant used to live at his parents’ house but had moved out.

According to N.C. Department of Correction records, Troy Whisnant was released from prison in July after serving 11 months on a receiving stolen property charge. In the late 1990s, he served a year in prison for manslaughter. Staff writers Andrew Dunn and Michael Gordon contributed.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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