Local News

Missing Angier woman's husband: 'I'll hope...'

Posted May 19, 2008 10:00 p.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2008 7:43 a.m. EDT

— Tim Rohrbach says when he found out his wife, Sallie, was missing, he feared maybe she was the victim of a random act of violence. He never imagined her job as an insurance investigator for the state could cost her her life.

"Like the two halves of the heart, we just always fit together," Tim Rohrbach said.

The couple had been married for 24 years.

"I thought it would be a lifelong relationship, but I guess it wasn't," Tim Rohrbach said.

Sallie Rohrbach, 44, of Angier, traveled to Charlotte last week and had planned to spend several days auditing the Dilworth Insurance Agency. When family and co-workers didn't hear from her by late last week and she did not show up for a meeting, they called police.

A ground search led detectives to her car, which was discovered Sunday morning in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant less than a mile from the insurance agency. It wasn't long before authorities charged the owner of the insurance agency, Michael Arthur Howell, with first-degree murder.

"I have hope that she is still alive, but I am also realistic. I have to be honest with myself, but I'll hope until the day I know for sure," Tim Rohrbach said. "I don't know why someone felt that they had to kill my wife to cover up a business transaction."

"It's the last thing we expected," said Chrissy Pearson, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Department. "We just don't expect our people in the field to be put in this kind of danger. It been very hard on everyone."

Howell, 40, of Indian Trail, was being held Monday in the Mecklenburg County Jail. He was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities said Rohrbach's slaying was connected to her duties as an auditor and that evidence was found in both her car and Howell's vehicle. The investigation is ongoing, and detectives have yet to find Rohrbach's body, said Julie Hill, a spokeswoman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

Pearson said a complaint against Howell was recently filed with state insurance officials. She declined to elaborate, but noted it was the first since he opened his business more than 20 years ago.

"She was going down there for a very routine sort of examination of the agency, looking at their files. There was nothing whatsoever to give us any indication that she would be in any danger," Pearson said. "She did know that if at any point she felt uncomfortable, she could call in our law enforcement guys, and she has done that in the past.

"But she gave us no calls. Nothing to lead us to believe she was uncomfortable in any way."

As a field examiner, Rohrbach would look at an agency's books and files and interview employees. Depending on the complaint, such a field investigation could take up to a week. If she found evidence of any wrongdoing – including fraud – she would forward the complaint to the Insurance Department's criminal division, Pearson said.

Rohrbach's husband received an e-mail from her Tuesday, but no one had seen her since Wednesday, Pearson said.

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.