Local News

Missing state worker's body found in S.C.

Posted May 20, 2008 12:06 p.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2008 9:59 p.m. EDT

— A woman's body found in Fort Mill, S.C., is that of a missing state insurance examiner who traveled to Charlotte last week to audit an insurance company, police said Tuesday evening.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., police investigators converged on a private wooded area about 200 yards off of Vista Road, 23 miles south of Charlotte, where they found the body of Sallie Rohrbach, 44.

It had been there for about three days, they said.

Rohrbach’s employer, the state Department of Insurance, said in a statement that the news brought conflicting emotions to those at the agency.

"We are devastated that all hope is lost, but we also find a sense of closure in knowing that we can lay to rest our dear friend and colleague with the dignity and respect she deserves," the statement said. "Not knowing where to find her was torturous, so at least in that regard there is some relief."

"We pray for peace for Sallie's family and want them to know that we grieve with them," it continued.

Meanwhile Tuesday, a district judge in Mecklenburg County rejected a request for a public defender from the insurance agency owner charged with first-degree murder in the case.

Michael Arthur Howell, 40, of Indian Trail, asked for a court-appointed attorney, but the judge denied the request, citing Howell's $6,000 monthly income and liability insurance, saying it was enough income for him to pay for his defense.

It was unclear if anyone was in court representing Rohrbach's family; a handful of people were there for Howell, including his sister-in-law, who did not identify herself by name.

"Just pray for both families," she said as she left court.

Rohrbach traveled to Charlotte early last week to audit Howell's Dilworth Insurance Agency. When family and co-workers did not hear from her by Friday, they called police.

Police found her car Sunday morning in the parking lot of a Bojangles' restaurant less than a mile from the insurance agency.

Authorities said Rohrbach's apparent slaying was connected to her duties as an auditor and that evidence was found in both her car and Howell's vehicle was enough to charge him.

Howell's next court date is June 2; a probable cause hearing is scheduled for June 9.