A mother, son and his girlfriend accused of their involvement this month in the death of a Denver woman made their first appearances in the case today through video arraignment.
Judge Meredith Shuford read each suspect’s rights, gave them the opportunity to seek a court-appointed attorney or hire their own representation and revealed the maximum prison sentences for each of the charges they face.
Derek Allen Williams, 25, of 421 Springs East Road in Lincolnton, has been charged with one felony count of second-degree murder, a class B2 felony which Shuford said carries a maximum prison sentence of 484 months.
Williams’ mother, Patricia Ann Stroupe, 50, of 2584 Southland Trail in Lincolnton, and his girlfriend Alesha Michelle Werner, 25, of 161 Lilly Trail in Maiden, have each been charged with one felony count of accessory after the fact of murder.
If convicted, Stroupe and Werner could spend up to 204 months in prison, Shuford said.
The trio took the life of Sherry Jo Tobeler, of 6674 Billy’s Way in Denver, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies arrested the individuals on Monday, just three hours after securing warrants against each of them.
Williams and Werner were taken into custody just before 8 p.m. at the Days Inn in Lincolnton. The pair had been hiding in one of the rooms, deputies said.
Stroupe was arrested an hour earlier near her residence.
Tobeler was pronounced dead Monday afternoon at Carolinas Medical Center-Main in Charlotte, three days after Williams struck the victim with her own truck on N.C. 150, deputies said.
Tobeler was located around 3 a.m. Friday lying on the roadway near Mack Ballard Road.
The Communications Center contacted the Sheriff’s Office about the incident, and when officers arrived on scene, the victim gave them various stories about how she ended up there, including the fact that she had been driving a Chevrolet Silverado Extended Cab pickup.
Deputies searched the area Friday but failed to find the vehicle. The agency located the truck Monday afternoon in a pond on Gladden Road, off Springs East Road north of Lincolnton, after one of the suspects led them to the site, Sheriff David Carpenter said.
A helicopter with Channel 9 assisted deputies in actually locating the truck roughly 75 feet from the shoreline, deputies said.
Deputy John Isaacks assisted in the vehicle’s recovery by diving into the water to attach a cable from it to a truck with Hampton’s Wrecker Service.
The vehicle was hoisted out of the pond by 2:40 p.m.
Various community residents gathered around the Lincolnton pond Monday as EMS officials, troopers and deputies worked to pull Tobeler’s truck from the waters.
According to Springs East Road resident Bruce Ward, the scene proved similar to one he and others in the neighborhood remembered witnessing in 2008 after a woman accidentally crashed a truck carrying her and her two children into the same pond, killing two.
“It’s sad,” Ward said of the current death investigation.
According to Major Lee Caskey, the incident is the second homicide his agency has investigated this year.
After interviewing Tobeler’s husband and the suspects, they learned additional details about what happened in the hours leading up to Tobeler’s injuries.
The victim’s husband told deputies she left their residence around 9 p.m. Thursday following a disagreement.
Deputies said she later met up with several other individuals at a pool hall in Maiden and a bar in Denver.
The suspects eventually hitched a ride with Tobeler toward Mack Ballard Road.
During the drive, an argument broke out among the four of them, deputies said.
The incident prompted the victim to exit the truck and call both the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office and Catawba County 911, deputies said.
Catawba County officials transferred Tobeler’s call to the Lincoln County Communications Center.
Shortly after, Williams drove the truck over Tobeler, who had fallen to the ground, and sped away from the scene, leaving the victim injured, deputies said.
Lincoln County Emergency Medical Services transported the 54-year-old to Carolinas Medical Center-Main in Charlotte, where she underwent surgery. Medical officials later determined Tobeler had no brain activity and declared her dead, various news media outlets have said.
Tobeler’s vehicle is currently being stored at the Sheriff’s Office Impound Lot in Lincolnton.
All three suspects remain behind bars in the Harven A. Crouse Detention Center, Williams under a $500,000 secured bond, Werner under a $125,000 secured bond and Stroupe under a $75,000 secured bond.
Williams has a history of felony offenses in Lincoln and Catawba Counties for breaking and entering and vehicle theft, according to the North Carolina Department of Correction website.
Stroupe has felony drug charges on her record, the site showed.
Each of the suspects is set to appear in court again on Nov. 20.