Local News

Johnston County Authorities May Have Known Man's Life Was At Risk

Posted February 20, 2001

— A Johnston County man was murdered, and authorities may have known that the man's life was at risk.

Cynthia Rupel, a corrections officer in Johnston County, is the only suspect in the murder of her husband, James Rupel Jr. The Department of Correction (DOC) says she wrote a suicide note with her husband's name on it two weeks before his death. A co-worker found the note and her boss confronted her.

"She said they were her husband's letters," said Tracy Little, DOC spokeswoman.

DOC officials notified the district attorney's office, but there was no law broken. The future victim was not told about the note.

The DOC called the Johnston County Sheriff's Office and paid a handwriting expert to verify that Rupel had written the note. When officers determined the next day that Rupel did write the note, they contacted Sheriff Steve Bizzell and hand-delivered the paperwork that afternoon.

Bizzell says he needed more documentation from the DOC and advice from the district attorney's office before warning Rupel, but he could not get it that afternoon. Twelve hours later, James Rupel was dead.

"We did not have the information to lead us to believe that a crime had been committed or was about to be committed," he says. "The district attorney's office had already been consulted, and they believed that they was not a violation of law."

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