By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
The Charlotte Observer
MORGANTON, N.C. — The suspect in a double homicide in Burke County who was also accused of shooting a U.S. Forestry officer was killed by officers during a manhunt Wednesday afternoon.
Investigators identified the victims as Rhonda and Levi Whisnant, the parents of Troy David Whisnant, 38, who is suspected in their killings. The U.S. Forestry Service has not identified the officer who investigators say Whisnant also killed.
Around 9 a.m. Wednesday, investigators were called to the Whisnants' house on Fish Hatchery Road to check their welfare. There, deputies found the bodies of Rhonda and Levi Whisnant.
The Whisnants' house near Morganton is in a heavily wooded, mountainous area, where homes are spaced far apart.
As the investigation went on, the N.C. Highway Patrol notified investigators that two cars had been reported stolen and may have been connected to their case.
Dozens of police vehicles at a church were a half-mile away from the Whisnants' home. Late Wednesday, investigators had not removed the bodies of Troy Whisnant and the Forestry officer from a wooded area nearby and were preventing cars from going down the street.
More than 100 officers from about a half-dozen agencies joined in the manhunt.
The sheriff said police began to suspect Troy Whisnant, a felon who had spent time in prison. The sheriff said the manhunt focused on an area a mile in diameter from the house. Searchers located one of the stolen vehicles abandoned near Old Tabletop Road.
"We thought that we had him confined. We set up roadblocks on all the arteries and we pretty much had him confined to a mile radius," said Sheriff Steve Whisenant.
Around 3 p.m. Whisnant was approached by the U.S. Forestry officer and his search dog. Whisnant shot the officer and the dog and took the officer's gun and kept running, the sheriff said.
Shortly afterward, he was approached by an Avery County sheriff's deputy and two state troopers. They told him to drop the weapon, the sheriff said.
Whisnant fired one shot, the sheriff said, and at least one officer returned fire, killing him.
The Burke County Sheriff's Office is investigating the killings of Rhonda and Levi Whisnant. The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the suspect's death. The FBI is investigating the U.S. Forestry officer's killing.
The sheriff said he did not know a motive. He said Troy Whisnant used to live at his parents' house but had since moved it.
According to Department of Corrections records, Troy Whisnant was released from custody last July after serving 11 months on a receiving stolen property charge. In the late 1990s, he served a year in prison for manslaughter.
Copyright 2014 The Charlotte Observer
McClatchy-Tribune News Service