Archive, November 17, 2005

Three Arrested in Local Murder

Story by Sam Calhoun

Last week, local holiday anticipation gave way to horror and sadness as news spread about a homicide in the Sleepy Hollow community. A week later, no updates have been released about the alleged murder of ASU student Stephen William Harrington, 19, whose partially burned body was found in the trunk of an abandoned red Subaru on Sleepy Hollow Road in Foscoe on the morning of November 8.

On Wednesday, November 9, Sheriff Mark Shook announced to the public Harrington’s name and the names of three local men who had been arrested in connection with the murder: Kyle Quentin Triplett, 21, and Neil Matthew Sargent, 24, both of 121 Poplar Hill Drive in Boone; and Matthew Brandon Dalrymple, 20, of 1852 Dameron Road, Bessemer City, NC.

The three have been arraigned on first-degree murder charges and are currently being held in the Watauga County Detention Center until a probable cause hearing on December 6.

Harrington’s body has been sent to Chapel Hill for an autopsy.

“The autopsy was performed but we haven’t heard any word back from the State Medical Examiner’s Office,” said Shook. “It usually takes awhile before they give us a report. It might be several weeks before we get that back.”

The autopsy report will tell authorities the approximate cause and time of Harrington’s death.

“Nothing that I can release right now” was Shook’s response to questions about what occurred between 11:00 p.m. on Monday, November 7, and 7:44 a.m. on Tuesday, November 8.

The story may become clearer after Triplett, Sargent and Dalrymple appear for their probable cause hearing on December 6. At that hearing, the three court-appointed attorneys for the suspects will have the chance to ask for bond after Shook and the investigating officers present the information they have compiled. Because there is a chance that the attorneys may continue the case, the district court hearing tentatively scheduled for December 19 “probably won’t be on that date,” said Shook.

The investigation is continuing. “It’s still ongoing,” said Shook. “We’re interviewing and [solidifying] our case. We have a motive but we’re not going to release that right now.”

What is known is that Harrington’s murder was drug-related, and the search warrants shed some light on how drug deals may have played a part in his death.

Unlike the victim, none of the three alleged murderers are currently enrolled at the university according to ASU. Information on Neil Sargent’s arrest mugshot indicates he was employed as a security worker at the Homes Convocation Center at ASU. Dalrymple’s arrest mugshot lists no occupation, and Triplett’s mugshot lists his occupation as “stereo equipment” and his employer as “Neil Sargent.”

The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office has been carrying out all investigations with help from the State Bureau of Investigation, the ASU Police Department and the Boone Police Department.

Timeline of Events

Wednesday, November 2

Blowing Rock Police Sergeant Eric Brown informs Boone Police that illegal drugs may be being sold out of 121 Poplar Hill Drive (home of Neil Matthew Sargent) in Boone. Watauga County investigators begin surveillance on the property.

Monday, November 7

7:04 p.m. Boone Police conduct surveillance on Sargent’s home under the suspicion of drug dealing. They note that the lights are on.

10:00 p.m. Harrington, en route home from somewhere in the Piedmont of North Carolina, calls friends on his cell phone, giving hints about his plans for later in the evening.

10:30 p.m. Harrington returns home to 456 Seven Oaks Road where he, according to friends, picked up a quantity of cocaine.

11:00 p.m. Harrington leaves home to go to Sargent’s house at 121 Poplar Hill Drive to, according to court documents, sell Sargent cocaine.

12:00 a.m. Boone Police conduct surveillance on Sargent’s home under the suspicion that drugs are being dealt there.

Tuesday, November 8

[Early morning] Triplett, Sargent, Harrington and Dalrymple are together inside 121 Poplar Hill Drive.

7:44 a.m. Watauga deputies receive a 911 report of a probable vehicle fire on Sleepy Hollow Lane, 8.1 miles southwest of Sargent’s home.

8:11 a.m. Investigation begins. Lt. Kelly Redmond arrives on the scene to find a red 2000 Subaru Legacy with smoke coming from inside the vehicle. Foscoe Fire Department extinguishes the fire.

8:00 a.m. Redmond discovers Harrington’s body after prying open the trunk of a partially burned 2000 Subaru Legacy. Officers determine that the Subaru belongs to Harrington’s father who lives in Raleigh and that Stephen William Harrington is a sophomore student at ASU, majoring in business and accounting. The NC State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) is called in to assist in the investigation.

9:00 a.m. Boone Police continue to watch Sargent’s home, not knowing that the home is connected to the body found an hour earlier.

2:30 p.m. Investigators obtain a search warrant for Harrington’s residence. At the home, Special Agent Andy Cline finds a dry-erase board with the words, “Total Neil – 3400.” Cline interviews Harrington’s female roommate, Kelly Ann Nivison, who relays that Harrington “occasionally smokes marijuana.” A search of the home turns up four clear plastic bags with white residue, five clear plastic bags with green vegetable matter, assorted drug paraphernalia, a glass bong and two small marijuana plants.

2:30 p.m. One of Harrington’s friends leads investigators to Sargent’s house at 121 Poplar Hill Drive. Sheriff Mark Shook and Detective Jason Cornett observe three vehicles in the driveway, one of them a 1994 Toyota truck registered to Kyle Triplett of 5735 NC Hwy 194 N in Boone.

4:00 p.m. A tow truck from Hampton’s Body Shop in Boone brings the 2000 Subaru Legacy to the garage of the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department.

4:00 p.m. Officers from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department and the State Bureau of Investigation inspect the 2000 Subaru Legacy.

6:36 p.m. Sheriff Mark Shook, Captain Jamey Fletcher and other officers go to 121 Poplar Hill Drive. Fletcher knocks on the door and Sargent answers. When asked who else is inside the residence, Sargent responds, “Kyle and Matt,” and summons them to the door. They are identified as Kyle Quentin Triplett and Matthew Brandon Dalrymple. Fletcher informs the three individuals as a group that they are not under arrest and do not have to talk to the officers. Fletcher asks them if they are willing to come to the Sheriff’s Office and speak with the officers “about a matter.” They agree. Fletcher asks Sargent to walk through the residence with him to see if anyone else is inside. The house is clear except for, as officers noted, a strong marijuana odor and the sighting of a clear plastic bag containing a white granular powder. Fletcher, Shook and the other officers transport Sargent, Triplett and Dalrymple to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office.

[Late Evening] Sheriff Shook, Watauga Sheriff’s Office Captain Brian Tolbert and NC SBI Special Agent Wade Colvard interview Kyle Triplett about the murder. Triplett tells investigators that in the early morning of November 8, Triplett, Harrington, Sargent and Dalrymple were at the residence at 121 Poplar Hill Drive. Triplett says that he was asleep when he heard Harrington say in a “toe-curling voice” “Why me?” Triplett says he never saw the victim’s face, only gray duct tape around the victim’s face and arms. Triplett continues that the victim’s arms were bound behind his back and claims that he and Sargent lifted and put the victim into the trunk of Harrington’s Subaru. Triplett tells investigators that he and Sargent drove Harrington’s car to the Foscoe area. According to Triplett, Sargent was holding a silver colored pistol during the drive. Triplett says that they parked the car in a secluded area, where he then set Harrington’s body on fire in the trunk of the Subaru. Investigators learn that Dalrymple drove a Honda following Triplett and Sargent and waited in the Honda while Triplett set the body on fire. All three men then got into the Honda and fled the scene. Triplett tells investigators that the cocaine taken from the victim, about four to five ounces, was hidden in the 121 Poplar Hill Drive residence under a granite slab.

Wednesday, November 9

12:30 a.m. Watauga County Magistrate Kim Eggers issues a search warrant for 121 Poplar Hill Drive. The search takes place immediately following and turns up a plastic bag with 4 to 5 ounces of a white substance believed to be cocaine, two plastic bags containing green vegetable matter, a flak jacket, razor blades, multiple guns including a shotgun, a partial roll of duct tape and a box for scales.

1:00 a.m. Sargent is booked with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department in Boone. Magistrate C.N. Waters place Sargent under no bond.

2:00 a.m. Triplett is booked with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department in Boone. Magistrate C.N. Waters place Triplett under no bond.

[Early Morning] Dalrymple is booked with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department in Boone. Magistrate C.N. Waters place Dalrymple under no bond.

[Morning] Preliminary hearing takes place at Watauga County Courthouse. Dalrymple, Sargent and Triplett are issued a December 19 District Court date and held without bond until a December 12 probable cause hearing. (The date of the probable cause hearing was subsequently changed to December 6 and will likely affect the date of the District Court hearing.) The three are arraigned on first-degree murder charges. District Court Judge Greg Horne presided.

Sargent, Triplett and Dalrymple are held in the Watauga County Detention Center.

Harrington’s body is sent for an autopsy to Chapel Hill.

Thursday, November 17

Autopsy has been performed, but NC State Medical Examiner’s Office has yet to send results to Sheriff Mark Shook. The autopsy will reveal approximations of cause and time of death.

Sargent, Triplett and Dalrymple are still held, without bond, in the Watauga County Detention Center.