Local News

Suspect in insurance examiner's death faces embezzlement charges

Posted February 6, 2009 10:14 a.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2009 1:26 p.m. EST

— The man charged with killing a state insurance investigator last spring has been charged with embezzling money from clients, state Department of Insurance officials said Friday.

Michael Howell, 41, of 5404 Fredrick St. in Indian Trail, was charged with 25 counts of embezzlement by an insurance agent. Howell remains in the Mecklenburg County Jail on a charge of first-degree murder in the May death of Sallie Rohrbach, 44, of Angier.

Rohrbach's body was found wrapped in garbage bags in a wooded area of Fort Mill, S.C., on May 20. Authorities haven't been able to determine the cause of death.

Department of Insurance officials said Rohrbach was sent to examine the books of the Dilworth Insurance Agency when she disappeared on May 14. Howell owned the agency.

Each embezzlement charge filed against Howell represents a premium payment that Howell pocketed instead of forwarding to an insurance company, according to warrants. Investigators said the transactions occurred between March 2004 and May 2008 and were to cover premiums owed to GMAC Insurance and Discovery Insurance companies.

A full audit of Dilworth Insurance Agency has been turned over to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office, officials said. The case remains under investigation, and more charges could be filed, they said.

Soon after Rohrbach's body was found, sources in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department told CBS affiliate WBTV that she died from blunt force trauma and that the slaying occurred inside Howell's office.

Police seized a stick from the office as possible evidence in early June, according to a search warrant. Testing produced positive results for traces of blood on a carpet and a computer cord.