By JONATHAN MATTISE and MITCH WEISS
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – A multistate crime spree left a North Carolina couple dead and their home torched before two suspects were caught in a New Year’s Day shootout that wounded two West Virginia police officers, authorities said Friday.
Investigators began piecing together the crime Thursday around 4 p.m. when two Lewisburg, West Virginia, officers pulled over an SUV on a highway outside the city, Lt. Michael Baylous of the West Virginia State Police said in a news release. The SUV had a North Carolina license plate showing it had been stolen, according to police.
During the traffic stop, a second vehicle – a truck – pulled over nearby.
As the officers conducted the stop, the driver of the truck shot at them with a handgun, wounding both officers, Baylous said. One officer returned fire, wounding the suspect in the leg.
Baylous said the driver of the SUV fled and hid but later turned himself in. The driver of the truck also fled and was eventually taken into custody, Baylous said.
Investigators then discovered two bodies under a mattress in the bed of the truck.
Baylous identified the suspects as Eric Campbell, 21, and Edward Campbell, 54, of Texas. Police say Edward Campbell was the driver of the truck and the gunman who was wounded. Police say the two identified themselves as father and son.
They’ll be charged with malicious assault and attempted murder of a police officer, police said.
Lewisburg police Chief Tim Stover said the wounded officers were Lt. Jeromy Dove, a 16-year veteran of the force, and Patrolman Nicholas Sams, a rookie just out of training.
Dove sustained a graze shot in the back of his neck. Sams had shrapnel in his forehead. Stover said he expected they would leave the hospital Friday.
“They were both wearing bulletproof vests, and they were very beneficial to preventing further injuries or worse injuries,” Stover said.
Both officers are temporarily on administrative leave. A third officer was at the scene but wasn’t shot, Stover said.
Police didn’t immediately identify the bodies found in the vehicle, but Granville County Sheriff Brindell B. Wilkins Jr. told Raleigh TV station WRAL that the bodies were those of Jerome Faulkner, 73, and his wife, Dora Faulkner, 62.
The sheriff told the station that the two suspects burst into the Faulkners’ home near Oak Hill on Thursday morning, set the house on fire and took the couple and their SUV.
Wilkins said it wasn’t immediately clear why the two were targeted or whether they were killed in the initial attack or sometime later.
The Associated Press couldn’t immediately reach Wilkins Friday.
Court records in Brazoria County, south of Houston, show that Edward Campbell was arrested last September for aggravated assault, a second-degree felony in Texas. Court officials could provide no other details Friday, saying his case file had been sealed.
He also had been on probation or deferred adjudication for five years after pleading guilty in 2007 to a charge of possession of a controlled substance.
Campbell at one time was a registered nurse in both Florida and in Texas.
Records show his Florida license expired in 1998. His Texas license was revoked in 2009 by the Texas Board of Nursing after nearly a dozen charges primarily related to more than 80 incidents of improper documentation, misuse or misappropriation of narcotics while working at several Houston-area hospitals in January and February of 2007.
In rural Granville County, North Carolina, Jerome Faulkner, 73, was a founding member of the Cornwall Volunteer Fire Department near Oxford in the 1980s and had served as its chief. He’d retired from firefighting a few years ago but was remembered for his willingness to help younger members of the department.
“He helped train me when I joined. He was a mentor,” said Steven Frazier, the department’s current chief, who joined in 2000.
“He would still come by and help out when he could, but he was enjoying his retirement,” he said.
Faulkner was active in the church and “just a good person. Everybody knew him,” Frazier said.
With about 8,400 people, Oxford is a typical North Carolina small town, with tree-line streets and roads to the country. The Faulkners lived on one of them – Highway 96. Their house was set back a little from the highway.
Neighbor and relative Judy Laws said she got the news late Thursday last night from another family member that the victims were Jerome Faulkner and his wife, Dora, 62, a nurse.
Laws had heard sirens blaring and saw trucks speeding down the road. They learned the fire was at Faulkners’ house. The Laws live about 500 feet from the Faulkners, but a thicket of trees block their view.
“They sort of kept to themselves. But when anyone needed help, they were there,” she said. “You couldn’t find any better people than they were.”
She said Dora still worked but Faulkner had retired. “He was in bad health,” she said.
Laws said her husband has health problems, and the Faulkners were always willing to help them. “They’d ask if we needed anything. All I needed to do was call and Dora would be here in a minute.”
She said word spread quickly.
“We don’t know if they were killed in the house or killed later. We just don’t know. But it makes you wonder. It seems so random,” she said. “They could have picked any house. It could have been anyone on this road.”