A Lincolnton man, one of three accused in death of a Denver woman last year, is set to appear in court this morning, on the victim’s 55th birthday, family members said.
Derek Williams, 25, of 421 Springs East Road, is charged with one felony count of second-degree murder in the death of Sherry Jo Tobeler.
Deputies said Williams and two other individuals, including his mother, Patricia Ann Stroupe, 50, of 2584 Southland Trail in Lincolnton, and girlfriend, Alesha Michelle Werner, 25, of Lilly Trail in Maiden, ran over Tobeler and left her for dead.
The incident happened Nov. 1 on N.C. 150 near Mack Ballard Road, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
Family members told deputies Tobeler left her residence around 9 p.m. the previous night and met with the suspects at a Denver location.
While giving them a ride home in her pickup the following morning — with Williams driving — an argument broke out, and Tobeler was pushed from the vehicle as it traveled down the area roadway, deputies said.
Williams ran over the victim and fled the scene with Werner and Stroupe, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Tobeler’s family said she used her phone to call different relatives and police during the incident, letting them know she was in trouble.
But it was too late.
Three different witnesses in the area later spotted her body on N.C. 150 and called 911, the victim’s relatives said.
According to Tobeler’s husband, Dan, his wife was found lying in the middle of the road, near the yellow line.
The suspects were arrested a few days later after officers said they located Williams and Werner hiding in a Lincolnton hotel room. Stroupe was arrested at her home.
That same week, investigators discovered the victim’s truck at the bottom of a pond on Springs East Road.
Both Stroupe and Werner face charges in the case, each accused of one felony count of accessory after the fact-murder.
Several of Tobeler’s relatives were present in the courtroom on Tuesday.
They appeared upset when talking to Times-News about the day’s events, particularly how criminal defense attorneys were once again trying to reduce Stroupe’s bond.
A judge initially dropped it from $40,000 to $25,000 in February.
However, Judge James Morgan failed to grant this month’s request to reduce the bond by more than half, to $5,000, Tobeler’s family said.
Werner also made an appearance Tuesday in court with her defense attorney, Gregory C. Smith, of Lincolnton.
Judge Morgan granted Smith’s request for his client to undergo a mental evaluation in the case before a next hearing in August.
The victim’s family was not happy about the request.
According to Tobeler’s brother, Charles Malcolm, the justice system is ultimately responsible for his sister’s death.
With at least two of the suspects boasting lengthy criminal rap sheets with offenses such as larceny, breaking and entering and drug possession, the grieving brother believed Stroupe and Williams should never have been out of jail and on the streets.
“I’m disappointed in the legal system,” Malcolm said. “They never would have been on the streets and killed her.”
Tobeler’s children and even grandchildren, including brothers Damon and Logan Garris, were also present for Werner and Stroupe’s hearings.
Each relative spoke positively about Tobeler and how everyone around her loved her.
They reflected on her compassionate and friendly ways.
“She was like a grandma to everyone,” Damon Garris said.
Her husband also said she maintained friendships with everyone in their neighborhood and how neighbors still come to his door talking about her.
“People called her ‘Maw-Maw,’” he said.
Relatives believed Tobeler’s meeting up with Williams, Stroupe and Werner in November stemmed from a close friendship she had with an acquaintance of Williams.
Family said she once helped a man get back on his feet after his release from jail — a man whom Williams also knew and had met behind bars.
Malcolm and his wife were confident Williams learned about Tobeler’s generosity to the other man and had set out to take advantage of the victim’s kind nature the night she was killed.
Both Williams and Stroupe remain in the Lincoln County jail, Stroupe under a $25,000 bond and her son under a $510,000 bond.
Williams faces additional charges for felony larceny, second-degree trespassing, littering, breaking and entering a building, injury to personal property, possessing stolen goods and consuming alcohol on a public roadway, the jail website.
Deirdre Nachamie, of Lincolnton, is representing Stroupe. She chose not to comment on the case Tuesday when the Times-News contacted her office.
Attorney T. J. Wilson, also of Lincolnton, is representing Williams.