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Calabash man accused of killing couple, stabbing their daughter

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By Jackie Torok, Managing Editor

A Calabash felon is charged with stabbing a couple to death Wednesday morning near Shallotte, the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office said.

Torrence O’Neal Helms Jr., 30, of High Point Avenue, faces two counts of murder and single counts of attempted murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, fleeing to elude arrest with a motor vehicle and misdemeanor resisting a public officer. He is being held at the Brunswick County Detention Facility without bail.

Warrants show Helms used a knife to stab 55-year-old Theresa Lee "Terri" Rowell; her husband, 66-year-old Dennis Edmund Rowell; and their daughter, 19-year-old Irene Elizabeth Rowell, and stole Terri Rowell’s black 2012 Kia Optima on Wednesday morning.

County E911 records show Irene Rowell called from Village Point Road just outside Shallotte town limits at 4:39 a.m. to report she’d awakened to find a family friend stabbing her parents and then he stabbed her in the chest.

“Me and my family were just stabbed,” she said in the recording. “Please hurry!”

“Where were you stabbed at?” the dispatcher asked.

“Everywhere,” she said, later naming Helms as the attacker.

Dispatchers sent deputies to a home on Iveystone Court SW near Shallotte in response to the possible stabbing of two people, according to a sheriff’s office news release.

Shallotte and Ocean Isle Beach police were called to help secure the crime scene, E911 records show.

Deputies saw what they believed to be Terri Rowell’s Kia, based on the E911 call, on their way to the home and chased it, reaching speeds of up to 105 MPH, at 4:45 a.m.

One deputy performed a precision immobilization technique, or PIT maneuver, and the vehicle crashed in a wooded area off of Ocean Isle Beach Road. The driver ran but was arrested at 5 a.m.

Helms was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington to be treated for his injuries, according to the release.

Deputies found Terri Rowell dead and her husband and daughter injured at the home. Dennis Rowell was taken to Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, where he died a short time later while Irene Rowell was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center to be treated for her injuries.

Brunswick County EMS, Coastline Volunteer Rescue Squad, Shallotte Point Volunteer Fire Departmentand Grissettown-Longwood Fire & Rescue personnel also responded, E911 records show.

The investigation continues.

On July 2, 2018, deputies charged Helms with three counts of breaking and entering and two counts each of larceny after breaking and entering possession of stolen goods or property.

Warrants show Helms broke into Calabash Seafood Hut at 1125 River Road and stole $300 about 6 a.m. that day.

Warrants also show he broke into Calabash Seafood Hut on Aug. 30, 2016, and stole $600 from the business, and broke into the restaurant again two days later on Sept. 1, 2016, but took nothing.

The sheriff’s office reported Helms missing June 13, 2018, from Riverview Drive in Calabash. He was located safely the next morning.

North Carolina Department of Correction records show Helms was listed Wednesday as an absconder from probation and parole supervision, with instructions for anyone with information on his whereabouts to call the state Department of Public Safety.

Helms was convicted Dec. 15, 2014, of three counts of felony breaking and entering Nov. 17, 2013, and Oct. 5, 2018, of the same crime March 10, 2015, Sept. 1, 2016, July 2, 2018, and Aug. 30, 2018, all in Brunswick County, records show. He also was convicted Oct. 5, 2018, of possession of a firearm by a felon March 10, 2015, in Brunswick County.

Helms served a total of 18 months in prison, first at Craven Correctional Institution in Vanceboro and most recently at Tabor Correctional Institution in Tabor City. He also was to serve two years on probation with community service.