Saturday, September 30, 2023

‘My family was just stabbed’; Calabash man allegedly kills two, injures one in Shallotte attack

The 911 call from a double-murder Wednesday reveals the victims, two parents and their 19-year-old daughter, were attacked by a family friend in their home.

A Calabash man charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in Shallotte was arrested after a car and foot chase by a Brunswick County Sheriffs deputy Wednesday. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
A Calabash man charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in Shallotte was arrested after a car and foot chase by a Brunswick County Sheriffs deputy Wednesday. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — A married couple and their 19-year-old daughter were stabbed, allegedly by a family friend, in their Shallotte home Wednesday. Both Dennis and Theresa Rowell, 66 and 55, died from their injuries.

Irene Rowell, 19, is alive and being treated for her injuries at New Hanover County Regional Medical Center.

RELATED: Early morning stabbing in Brunswick County leaves two dead, one injured, suspect in custody

The three family members were all allegedly stabbed by Torrence O’Neal Helms, Jr. of Calabash. Helms, 36, is now in custody at the Brunswick County jail, being held without bond. He’s been charged with two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, robbery with dangerous weapon, and resisting and fleeing arrest.

911 call

According to the 911 call, provided by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office (BSCO), Irene Rowell first called 911 at 4:41 a.m. Wednesday. She told the 911 operator she woke up to her parents being stabbed.

“Ma’am my family was just stabbed,” Rowell said. 

While crying, and trying to stay conscious, Rowell said she had also been stabbed in the leg, chest, and head — “everywhere.” The 19-year-old placed the call from her neighbor’s driveway in Iveystone Court in Shallotte, where she was hiding from the attacker. She identified the suspect, Helms, as a “family friend.”

Torrence O'Neal Helms, Jr. was admitted to the Brunswick County jail at 4: 39 p.m. Wednesday. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Brunswick County Sheriffs Office)
Torrence O’Neal Helms, Jr. was admitted to the Brunswick County jail at 4: 39 p.m. Wednesday. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Brunswick County Sheriffs Office)

Six minutes into the 911 call, sirens were audible. The operator told Rowell a deputy was on Pine Lake Drive, which is at most, one-half mile from her location.

Rowell, who repeatedly told the operator she was passing out, held on for another three and half minutes before a Shallotte Police Department officer made it to the scene.

Helms allegedly stole Theresa Rowell’s 2012 Kia Optima and fled the scene. As Brunswick County Sheriffs deputies were on the way to the Rowell’s home, they spotted the vehicle, as described during the 911 call, a BSCO release states. Four minutes after Irene Rowell placed the call, deputies were in pursuit of the vehicle, according to the release, reaching speeds up to 105 mph.

The arrest

Deputy B. Smith performed a PIT maneuver to stop Helms while in pursuit. The maneuver resulted in a crash into the woods off of Ocean Isle Beach Road. A short foot chase followed, and Smith apprehended Helms at 5 a.m. Helms was then transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) to be treated for his injuries and was admitted to the Brunswick County jail later that day, at 4:39 p.m.

Theresa Rowell died in her home. Her husband, Dennis Rowell, later died at Brunswick Novant Hospital.

Aside from Helms’ charges relating to the stabbing, he has also been charged with two counts of violating probation. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Helms was convicted of a felony breaking and entering in 2014 in Brunswick County, and later convicted in 2015 for possessing a firearm as a felon.


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