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Missing person report could be connected to fugitive

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Law officers say they're treating the disappearance of a 68-year-old Mills River man as a possible kidnapping and that they believe he may have been abducted by the fugitive they've been hunting for since Saturday.

Authorities are requesting the public’s assistance in locating a silver Honda Ridgeline with tag number AAR-7345. The vehicle has a West Henderson Falcons tag on the front and a West Henderson magnet on the back. Bryson left his home in the South Mills River Road area at approximately 8:35 a.m. on Wednesday. Stroupe has a shaved head and a large, distinct tattoo on his neck just under his chin as well as tattoos on his arms and chest. He is considered armed and dangerous.

The hunt entered a fifth day with 18 law enforcement agencies supported by 10 other agencies, churches or businesses with no new sightings but with plenty of tips and fears that a missing person's report could be connected to the fugitive, the Henderson County sheriff's office said.

The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office and Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office are jointly coordinating the hunt for Phillip Michael Stroupe II after someone reported seeing him in the North Mills River campground.

Henderson County Sheriff’s deputies supported by the Rutherford County Sheriff’s SWAT team conducted mobile operations overnight in the Mills River area. Numerous community tips were received and followed up on by Law Enforcement assets. Henderson County Sheriff’s Office criminal investigations will be following up on any leads developed overnight. Operations are continuing throughout the day today utilizing assets from multiple counties, the sheriff's office said.

Meanwhile, authorities asked for the public’s assistance in locating Thomas A. Bryson, a 68-year-old man who was last seen at 8:35 Wednesday morning. Bryson, who is 5-9 and 175 pounds with a gray mustache and gray hair, was wearing a plaid, dark colored shirt, brown cargo shorts and tennis shoes and driving a silver Honda Ridgeline with a West Henderson Falcons tag on the front. Anyone with information on Mr. Bryson's whereabouts was asked to contact the Henderson County Sheriff's Office at 828-697-4911.

As of this time, no further sightings of Phillip Michael Stroupe II have been confirmed. Law Enforcement operations in the Mills River area will continue, but be advised that the case has been adopted by the US Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force.

The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the following community partners who have provided assistance since the operation moved to Henderson County:

Community Partners:
Mills River Fire/Rescue Department
Henderson County EMS
Henderson County Rescue Squad
Henderson County Emergency Services Department (EM)
Mills River United Methodist Church
South Mills River Baptist Church
Camp Highlander
Bojangles, Mills River
Ingles Markets, Mills River
North River Farms

Both Sheriff’s Offices would like to thank the following Law Enforcement Agencies for their support:
Avery County Sheriff’s Office
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office
Polk County Sheriff’s Office
Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office
Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office
Gaston County Sheriff’s Office
Haywood County Sheriff’s Office
Brevard Police Department
Hendersonville Police Department
Asheville Police Department
NC Highway Patrol
NC Alcohol Law Enforcement
NC Dept. of Public Safety K9 Unit
NC Bureau of License and Theft
NC Wildlife Enforcement
US Marshal’s Service
US Forest Service
US Park Police
Department of Homeland Security
US Customs and Border Control