Prosecutors seek death penalty in couple’s murder

Death penalty in play for man accused of double-murder

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A judge on Monday approved the state’s request to seek the death penalty against a Calabash man accused of fatally stabbing a Shallotte couple and injuring their daughter earlier this year.

Torrence O’Neal Helms Jr., 30, of Calabash, has been indicted on two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of robbery with a dangerous weapon, one count of flee to elude arrest with a motor vehicle and one count of resisting a public officer.

Helms is accused of fatally stabbing Dennis Edmund Rowell, 66, and Theresa Lee Rowell, 55, in their home on Jan. 9. The Rowells’ 19-year-old daughter, Irene Elizabeth Rowell, 19, also was injured in the attack.

Deputies responded to the family’s home on Iveystone Court around 4:40 a.m. in reference to a stabbing. During a frantic 911 call to dispatchers, Irene Rowell said Helms, who she identified as a family friend, stabbed her and her parents then took off in their black Kia Optima.

On the way to the home, law enforcement spotted the Kia and initiated a pursuit.

Deputies pursued the car, reaching speeds of approximately 105 mph, before performing a pursuit intervention technique (PIT) maneuver, which caused the vehicle to crash into a wooded area off Ocean Isle Beach Road near US 17, about five miles away from Iveystone Court.

Helms was apprehended after a brief foot chase and taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries.

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