Authorities launch manhunt after traffic stop
By Nathan Hardin
SPENCER — A suspicious man sat in the breakroom at the PCA plant in Spencer about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
An employee at the business called police, according to a report with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, and the man fled when Spencer Police arrived at the business, re-igniting a large-scale manhunt that started four hours earlier just yards away from the business.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Master Deputy O. Greene tried to stop the man — identified by officers as Thomas Lee Byrd — who they say was driving a 1992 Buick Park Avenue near Charles Street about 4:30 a.m.
After Greene turned on the blue lights, the man hit the gas, authorities said.
Greene reported that the vehicle, which also had a female passenger, suddenly stopped near the intersection of Sowers Road and North Salisbury Avenue. Byrd fled into the woods, but the female passenger did not run.
The woman was taken into custody and deputies brought in a dog, which tracked a scent to a nearby junk yard, but the man could not be found.
The woman in the car, Julia Nichole King, told authorities that she had driven the vehicle, which was reported stolen, from South Carolina.
She also told deputies that she had only just recently met Byrd.
King was charged with felony possession of stolen goods and given a $5,000 bond. She was in jail Tuesday night.
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Byrd is believed to have crossed the railroad tracks near the Spencer packaging plant as he ran from authorities, the report said.
The 31-year-old was seen near Hackett Street, which runs along the tracks and over to Interstate 85 before disappearing into the woods again.
Authorities spread through the Spencer area, using a helicopter from the N.C. State Highway Patrol for aerial support, but Byrd wasn’t found.
He was spotted hours later on Long Ferry Road, deputies said, and was last seen near the Liberty Rushco Service Station.
Troopers, deputies and undercover officers fanned throughout the Long Ferry neighborhoods and around the service road running to the site of the Yadkin River Bridge construction.
A Highway Patrol helicopter again surveyed the area from above and officers surrounded the large wooded-area where Byrd was last seen, looking for any sign near the edge of the clearing.
About 4:30 p.m. Rowan County Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Sifford told the Post that deputies were no longer following an active trail on the man, but were “maintaining an increased presence” in the area.
The Sheriff’s Office said Byrd is 5-feet-11 and 200 pounds. He is listed on the N.C. Sex Offender Registry.
According to the N.C. Department of Corrections website, Byrd was convicted in 2006 in Davidson County of indecent liberties with a child. In 2008, he was also charged with failure to register as a sex offender.
Byrd is listed on the Horry County Sheriff’s Office website as a Myrtle Beach resident of 3741 Socastee Blvd. According to warrants obtained by the post, King is also a Myrtle Beach resident of 109 Skipper Harbour.
The Sheriff’s Office asks that anyone with information call the Sheriff’s Office at 704-216-8700.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.