Police pulled over suspects hours before dentist found

Four hours before Salisbury dentist James David Boyd was found strangled to death in his home, the three people later charged in his killing were pulled over by police on traffic violations a few miles from his neighborhood.

Jonathan Barnett, Candice Jo Drye and Christopher Boyd were in a white Chevy pickup when it was stopped at the intersection of Jake Alexander Boulevard and Castlewood Drive in Salisbury. Barnett, the driver, was cited for failing to turn on his lights and carry his driver's license, documents show.

Salisbury police Chief Mark Wilhelm said Monday it was after the traffic stop that investigators believe the trio went to the dentist's home on Pine Tree Road.

A co-worker found Boyd's body about 8:30 a.m. Thursday. He was in his bed, the covers pulled up to his chest. His feet and hands were bound by an electrical cord, and his hands were also tied to the bed.

The co-worker called 911.

“My boss, he didn't come to work. I was worried about him so I came to check on him…,” the woman sobbed. “He's dead … He's got a cord wrapped around his neck … I walked outside because I can't look at him.”

Police investigators Monday returned to the dentist's home to search for evidence. Wilhelm won't discuss a motive in the homicide but said more arrests are possible.

All three suspects are charged with murder and are being held without bond in the Rowan County jail.

Barnett, 18, and Christopher Boyd, 21, are cousins – and Boyd is not related to the dentist. Drye, 23, is engaged to Christopher Boyd's brother.

In a search warrant obtained by the Observer Monday, authorities said that suspect Christopher Boyd planned to flee to Tennessee to avoid arrest. But they arrested him at a mobile home in Concord early Sunday, and seized numerous items during a search. The items included cocaine, a razor blade, a $20 bill with white powder in it, a “Stuart Little” DVD, a birthday napkin and a Food Lion MVP card, the warrant says.

Christopher Boyd and Drye each have one conviction for driving while impaired in North Carolina. Barnett has no criminal record in the state.

It's unclear how the suspects may have known the dentist. Drye's relatives told the Observer she was not a patient of Boyd's but had previously gone to his office, where he had prescribed hydrocodone for her.

The State Bureau of Investigation confirmed Monday that it had been investigating James Boyd on the suspicion that he was illegally prescribing narcotics. Spokeswoman Noelle Talley said the probe began June 12 after the Rowan County Sheriff's Office got a tip from a confidential source.

Police say Drye was an “acquaintance” of the dentist. Drye's stepmother, Irene Cruse, told the Observer that Drye was with the dentist Wednesday night. They had met at his office, Cruse said, and gone to his home for drinks.

Cruse said she got a phone call from the dentist about 10 p.m. Wednesday, asking her and her husband to come get Drye, who had been drinking. Neither could go pick her up, Cruse said.

At some point later, Drye's fiance's mother went to the dentist's home to pick up Drye. She told police she found Drye walking near the home.

Investigators won't say what they believe happened between then and the traffic stop at 4:19 a.m. Thursday.

The Mecklenburg medical examiner's office would not say what time Boyd died or give any other details from the autopsy.

Police say Boyd died from strangulation and had no other obvious injuries except for a scratch on his shoulder blade. His bedroom was in disarray, police said, and some items appear to be missing from the three-story home. There were no signs of forced entry.

Boyd had no criminal history, and his dental license was in good standing. He coached youth basketball and soccer.

Boyd had been vacationing with his wife and three children at the beach, but returned for work last Tuesday.

His family could not be reached. His wife is also a dentist in Salisbury, practicing in the same building as he did.

Boyd will be buried today, with services beginning at 11 a.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salisbury.

Staff writer Catherine Carlock and researcher Maria Wygand contributed.

Anyone with information about Boyd's death is asked to call Crime Stoppers in Rowan County at 1-866-639-5245.