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Court sets date for Stroupe murder trial

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The 39-year-old Buncombe County man charged with the murder of Thomas Bryson will go on trial for his life next July, District Attorney Greg Newman announced on Wednesday.

Phillip Michael Stroupe II faces first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping charges and multiple other counts related to a five-day manhunt and the murder of Bryson. The trial is scheduled to start July 23 at the Henderson County Courthouse. Superior Court Judge R. Gregory Horne of Watauga County will preside over the trial. Judge Horne will hear pre-trial motions on legal issues during the week of May 28, Newman said.

Stroupe is also charged with Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon and First Degree Kidnapping. Both crimes also involved Bryson and were part of a continuing course of criminal conduct that began in Transylvania County and extended into Henderson County. The murder Bryson is alleged to have occurred right outside of Mills River. Stroupe was arrested in McDowell County close to midnight on July 26.

Newman has said publicly and has filed with the court a written notice that he intends to seek the death penalty upon a conviction of Stroupe for Bryson's murder. “The only pending motion at this time is the defendant’s request to change the county where the trial is held. There will be other motions filed, perhaps by both sides, that will be addressed by the judge on May 28 of next year,” Newman said.

The defendant’s father, Phillip Michael Stroupe Sr., 65, also faces multiple charges related to the case. He remains in the Henderson County jail under a $500,000 bond on charges of accessory after the fact.

The younger Stroupe, who is represented by Public Defender Paul Welch, will be back in court on Dec. 11 during an administrative session of Superior Court. He is being held in custody on no bond.