Sheriff provides update on summer homicide investigations

Published 6:33 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Rowan County Sheriff Travis Allen shed additional light on Wednesday regarding his department’s recent announcement that two summer homicides are actually connected.

According to Allen, material evidence recovered from the scenes pointed investigators to the current conclusion. Allen did not specify the exact nature of the evidence other than to say that it was “physical.”

On July 20, David Kenneth Land was found murdered at his home on Poole Road. Thirty-two days later, on Aug. 21, Michael James Mitchke was found deceased inside his burned camper on St. Peters Church Road. In each case, the victim died from gunshot wounds.

The sheriff indicated that the recovery of the evidence, despite the destruction from the fire, remains a testament to the investigators.

“We sifted that entire camper,” Allen said. “I’m proud of those guys. It was so hot that day, and we went through every piece of that camper … it was just an excellent job to find that evidence. To find it would be like a needle in a haystack, but they did.”

Allen estimates that investigators have conducted more than 100 interviews between the two cases. However, the link only came when the physical evidence recovered from the scene was analyzed in state labs.

“We found matches,” Allen said. “That tells us these cases are in some way related because we have the same evidence, that is similar and that matches, which ties both these cases together.”

The new evidence is a point of optimism for the detectives who had run into multiple dead ends while investigating the two homicides.

“We have not found a connection between the victims,” Allen said. “Generally, when you have two victims by the same perpetrator, you would think there was some connection. The families don’t have common friends, and (the victims) didn’t frequent common places.”

The landscape in the area where the crimes were committed has also complicated things.

“It’s very rural out there,” Allen said. “There are hardly any neighbors in these places. There’s one neighbor across the street in each case, so no cameras. We also rely heavily on technology. Some of these areas have very poor cellphone signal. When we are doing searches for cellphones, we are limited out there because in some of these areas like Poole Road and around High Rock (Lake), you can’t even get a cellphone signal out there. It’s really made it a hard investigation.”

Both homicides have previously been granted monetary rewards for information that could result in an arrest and conviction. The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office has offered a $10,000 reward on each case individually. The Mitchke family has announced they would offer an additional $10,000 reward.

“Somebody has talked,” Allen said. “That’s what our hope is when we get that money out. If you know something, that is a pretty substantial amount of money as reward goes.”

Anyone with information about these cases is asked to call Lt. Ryan Barkley at 704-216-8711 or Det. Kevin Holshouser 704-216-8702.