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Police: Enough evidence to file murder charge in Angier woman's disappearance

Posted May 19, 2008

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— Police continued to search Monday for the body of a missing Angier woman, saying they believe she was killed by the owner of a Charlotte insurance agency.

Sallie Rohrbach, 44, an auditor with the state Department of Insurance, traveled to Charlotte last Wednesday to audit Dilworth Insurance Agency. Her husband said she was filling in for a colleague.

Michael Arthur Howell, 40, of 5405 Frederick St. in Indian Trail, the owner of the insurance agency, was arrested early Monday and charged with murder in Rohrbach's disappearance. He was being held without bond in the Mecklenburg County Jail, pending an initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon.

Rohrbach was last seen between 3 and 4 p.m. Wednesday in uptown Charlotte at a strip mall called Dilworth Station, and she was reported missing Friday after she didn't show up for a meeting at work, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.

Rohrbach’s body hasn't been found, but investigators said they gathered enough evidence from an interview with Howell and searches of his car, Rohrbach's car and the insurance agency to file the murder charge.

"We feel pretty good about this case," said Julie Hill, spokeswoman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

The state-owned 2007 Chevrolet Malibu Rohrbach was driving was recovered over the weekend behind a Bojangles’ restaurant that is less than a mile from Howell's insurance agency. That prompted investigators to launch ground and air searches for her.

Investigators also found Rohrbach’s belongings Sunday in her hotel room. Her work and personal cell phones were turned off, police said.

"We are continuing the searches where we've got indications that there are some possible leads," Hill said.

Department of Insurance spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said Rohrbach was auditing an administrative complaint at Dilworth Insurance Agency.

"Sally was in Charlotte because she worked for the Department of Insurance. That makes it so much more difficult for us," Pearson said. "The fact that her work ended her life, we're at a loss for words.

"We find ourselves going back and thinking, 'Is there something more we could have done? What could have been done differently?'" she said. "Sally gave us no indication she was concerned about this case. It was a routine case. She was looking at some finances, looking at the books."

People who worked near Howell's insurance agency said they also were stunned by the turn of events.

"(He's) nice, normal, like a regular guy," said Sandy Courtney, who owns a coffee shop next door to the agency. "I've seen Mike every day for 3½ years."

"It's still sinking in," said Damien Bailey, who works at the coffee shop. "I'm having a hard time believing it, but apparently, there's been a substantial amount of evidence gathered.

"It's very creepy."

Anyone with information about Rohrbach’s disappearance or death is asked to contact the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department at 704-336-2311 or Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

63 Comments

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  • cocker_mom May 19, 2008

    that's good advice wa4mjf - don't ever let your guard down.

    I hope that as details are released, changes are made in some procedures for anyone in a role where they are 'investigating' anything - and we all stay a bit more aware of the potential for harm in seemingly harmless situations.

    Sad, sad, sad.

  • Mad Baumer May 19, 2008

    I am sure that there is more to this story. No speculation, just pure experience...

  • Smart Alec May 19, 2008

    Just re-read my comment, sorry, you can most certainly get jail time for these acts too, but to try and avoid it by murdering someone is just beyond sad.

  • Smart Alec May 19, 2008

    Here's the truly sad part. Even if he had been embezzling money etc. from clients and the co's he wrote policies through as an independent agent, usually these actions only result in fines and maybe the loss of your insurance license; hardly worth this innocent woman's life. What a sad turn of events, my heart goes out to her family.

  • Lady Justice May 19, 2008

    "Furthermore, it amazes me that there are always those that try to speak ill of the speculations and opinions others offer. That is the very purpose of the message boards...to offer one's opinion. In regards to a murder investigation or other crime...that includes one's opinion on what may have happened."
    tarheelalum

    It is one thing to speculate on what happened at the crime scene. I have been doing the same thing all day long. It is quite another thing to suggest there must have been something wrong with her marriage, and other negative things about the family (as some of the posters did early on). This is something that can be very painful for family and friends to see, especially when there is absolutely no merit to those "opinions." Even when they knew who had been arrested, some were still saying negative things about the husband. That is just WRONG.

  • RonnieR May 19, 2008

    Thinking something is "just routine" will get you hurt or worse
    more times than taking every situation seriously. I learned that early in my life and it made mde stay aware of my surroundings and, ultimately, stay safe for the most part.

  • lilwil May 19, 2008

    This is a shame and he should get the max. Had he not been doing anything illegal, he wouldn't be in this mess....now to add murder to his evil deeds.

    I pray for the family for their loss.

  • doubletrouble May 19, 2008

    I wouldn't have thought they would have arrested this gentleman, unless they had some descent evidence surrounding this case.

    Regardless, it's a shame that a family has to go thru this, due to simple low-lifes, whoever that/they may be. It sure seems that Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill has had their fill as of late.

  • GodBless May 19, 2008

    Who would have ever thought this would happen? She was just doing a job and...WE ARE NOT PROMISED TOMORROW OR EVEN THE REMAINDER OF TODAY!!!!!

  • Garnerwolf1 May 19, 2008

    I suspect that her audit was strictly routine. Not to the point of serious charges - at least not yet. Possibly he was doing something serious he knew he should not have been doing, and was trying to hide it. Maybe he thought he could get away with it, that it would be thought of as a random mugging or something. Speculation, but I'm fairly certain DOI would not have sent her in there if there was already a serious suspicion. Innocent until proven guilty applies here also.

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