US 74 shooting death being investigated as a homicide
Published 5:27 pm Thursday, March 31, 2016
Victim identified; no connection to Landrum robbery
By Leah Justice
A shooting death at the on ramp of U.S. 74 in Columbus early Thursday morning, March 31 is now being investigated as a homicide, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The victim has been identified as Destry Horne, 51, of Lilesville, NC.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference at 4 p.m. Thursday with more details of the crime, including that it is being investigated as a homicide and at this point there is no indication the murder is related to a nearby convenience store robbery in Landrum that occurred about 45 minutes after the shooting.
Polk County Det. Randall Hodge said Thursday morning officers were investigating it as a suspicious death, but “now we’re calling it a homicide.”
An autopsy is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday at the Winston Salem medical examiner’s office where Hodge said preliminary results of the autopsy should be received sometime Friday to know the exact cause of death.
Hill and Hodge said a truck driver traveling from Charlotte to Knoxville, Tenn. stopped on the on-ramp to take a break and stretch his legs when the box truck driven by Horne rolled backwards and struck his vehicle. The tractor-trailer driver called 911 at 5:52 a.m. to report the property damage. Officers with the Columbus Police Department were first on scene and that is when Horne was discovered as deceased from an apparent gunshot wound. The sheriff’s office said they do not know for sure where in Horne’s body he was struck, but did say the shooting was done by some type of handgun and the shot appeared to be what caused his death, but they will not know for sure until the autopsy is complete.
“Based on the evidence found at the scene, there is no indication of it being a suicide,” said Hodge.
Hodge also said investigators are looking at the shooting occurring very close to 5:52 a.m. because of the box truck rolling backwards at that time and also said the 911 caller did not see anything.
Sheriff Hill said it was a wild day in the county and surrounding area with the homicide, the Landrum robbery and a three-county car chase approximately two hours after the homicide that ended in a crash just 300 yards from the murder crime scene. Hill said the sheriff’s office has been bombarded with calls and he understands people’s concern but asked the public to trust him that he feels there is no threat to public safety. Polk County High School, just 100 yards away from the crime scene, was on lockdown for part of the morning while the investigation was taking place and the on ramp was shut down. Hill said the school system decided to lock down the high school as a precaution and the sheriff’s office had an extra officer and extra patrols at the school just as a precaution.
“We’re a small county,” said Hill. “ You don’t see a lot of this.”
Hill said he understands that people were wondering what was going on with all the police cars and sirens Thursday, especially considering the close proximity to the high school, saying he would be wondering as well. He apologized for not getting information out to the public sooner, but said there was a lot going on.
“I’m the sheriff and they’re my children too,” Hill said. “I’ll do everything I can to protect them.”
Hill also said he wants to ensure county residents that they are safe and he does not believe there is a murderer running around the county. He said sometimes he knows information that he can’t tell the public so he doesn’t jeopardize the investigation.
“I ask people to trust me when I tell them that,” said Hill. “This is a safe community. A great place to live.”
The outside of the crime scene was processed today with the help of the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), which Hill thanked for their quick response. The inside of the box truck where Horne was found in the driver’s seat, is scheduled to be processed on Friday, April 1.
As for the robbery in Landrum, Hill said it and the murder appear to be two separate incidences but the sheriff’s office will be speaking to South Carolina officials to make absolute sure there is no connection.
Hodge said of the murder at this point the sheriff’s office has no motive whatsoever.
The sheriff’s office plans to make other announcements on Friday as they become available.
Anyone with any information on the homicide or who may have seen anything in the area in the early morning hours of Thursday, March 31 is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 828-894-3001.