Four dead in Burke; US Forest Service officer from McDowell among those killed

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Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 9:16 pm | Updated: 9:26 pm, Wed Mar 12, 2014.

Four people are dead, including a U.S. Forest Service officer from McDowell and a suspect, following the discovery of two bodies in Burke County and a multi-agency manhunt for the killer.

Troy David Whisnant, 38, was shot and killed by officers after allegedly killing his father and stepmother days earlier and shooting an officer with the U.S. Forest Service during a manhunt Wednesday, according to Sheriff Steve Whisenant.

Wednesday night, authorities identified the slain Forest Service officer as Jason Crisp, 38, of Marion. Crisp was a former McDowell County sheriff’s deputy.

The Burke sheriff identified the homicide victims as Levi and Rhonda Whisnant and U.S. Sheriff’s deputies responded to a home at 5504 Fish Hatchery Road north of Morganton on Wednesday morning after coworkers of the stepmother called officers to perform a welfare check on her as she had not been to work since last Friday.

Deputies discovered the bodies of two people, who were later identified as Whisnant’s father and stepmother.

Two vehicles, which Sheriff Whisenant believed to connected with Whisnant, also were reported stolen in the area. One of the vehicles, a pickup truck, was recovered near the Burke-McDowell county line.

After the two larcenies, Whisnant, who has an extensive criminal background including manslaughter, was identified as a person of interest in the deaths and a search ensued.

Around 2:30 p.m., scanner traffic advised that an officer – later identified as Crisp – had been shot. Sheriff Whisenant said Crisp was ambushed by Whisnant. Crisp’s K-9 also was killed and his .45-caliber pistol and magazine were stolen.

At approximately 4:45 p.m., after authorities confined Whisnant in a wooded area, scanner traffic said the suspect had been shot.

The suspect was shot and killed by three officers about a mile south of the command center set up by law enforcement at Mountain Grove United Methodist Church on Fish Hatchery Road.

Sheriff Whisenant said he was killed after he opened fire on officers.

While on the run, authorities believe Whisnant broke into a house and an outbuilding.

Authorities discovered that the door of a neighboring house near the homicide had been kicked in. After searching the home, deputies discovered five firearms – a .22 revolver, .22 rifle, 12-guage pump shotgun, single-shot 12-guage and a .50 caliber muzzle load – were missing.

A .32 pistol was taken from the outbuilding.

Edgar Ward, neighbor to the victims of the double homicide for 35 years, said he had known Troy Whisnant all his life, as well as the danger he posed.

“He’s a dangerous man, let’s put it like that,” Ward said. “(Whisenant) is a dangerous man, he really is. He was messed up with drugs. His daddy and his stepmom are two of the greatest people in the world. They didn’t deserve this.”

Angie Pritchard-Ward, owner of the house that was broken into, said she was relieved that situation was over.

“I was glad that I was not home and my kids were not home,” Pritchard-Ward said. “That could’ve been a terrible situation if I or my children would’ve been there.”

Pritchard-Ward, who is the daughter of Ward, said her father and the victims were as close as family.

“I hate this had to go down the way it did,” Pritchard-Ward said. “I hate he did what he did, but I guess I know I can bring my babies back home and that my children will be safe.”

Around 120 to 150 officers from the BCSO, McDowell, Avery and Caldwell County sheriff’s offices, as well as the FBI, SBI, Beach Mountain Police, Morganton Department of Public Safety, Avery County Sheriff’s Office, Caldwell County, State Highway Patrol, U.S. Forest Service assisted in the manhunt.