New details in fatal church van crash

The stolen church van at the scene of the crash on Nov. 26

GINNY RHODES/MCDOWELL NEWS

The Swannanoa man who after died after leading a police chase in a stolen church van in November had stolen another vehicle in Buncombe the day before, authorities said on Wednesday.

On Sunday, Nov. 26, Timothy Joe Millington, 39, of Swannanoa, was pronounced dead after crashing a stolen church van during a chase with Marion Police Department officers on Greenlee Road.

According to a news release at the time of the incident, Officer DJ Barrier attempted to stop a church van reported stolen around noon that day from Iglesias Bautista Monte Sinai Church, of 404 Stroud Street in Marion. Police said Barrier spotted the van on Sugar Hill Road shortly after it was reported stolen.

The driver sped up and entered Interstate 40 with Barrier in pursuit. The van then exited at Parker Padgett Road and took a right onto Greenlee Road, police said. Barrier lost sight of the vehicle for a short distance and found it overturned around a curve. The release said preliminary investigation indicates the driver was not wearing a seatbelt and died as a result of the crash.

The driver was subsequently identified as Millington and pronounced dead at the scene.

The van was valued at $5,000. Further inspection of the van at the time uncovered $500 in cash, a purse and two tablets worth $300.

This week, Marion P.D. released an update on the crash, saying that Millington had been in possession of a set of vehicle keys, determined to belong to a 2001 Jeep Wrangler stolen from Swannanoa.

According to a report from Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, the vehicle had been reported stolen from Diamond Back 4x4 in Buncombe on Nov. 25. The Jeep Wrangler had been located near where the church van was stolen by Millington in Marion the following day.

Millington was also found the day of the incident to be in possession of a small amount of illegal narcotics and paraphernalia for using those narcotics, according to the update. Marion P.D. has confirmed it has concluded its internal investigation into the case. Investigators found the pursuit “was within North Carolina law and Marion Police policy,” according to a statement from the department.

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