North Carolina Insurance Examiner Missing, Agent Arrested for Murder

An agency examiner with the North Carolina Department of Insurance is missing and a Union County insurance agent is in custody charged with the examiner’s murder.

Sallie Rohrbach, 44, went missing on May 14 after completing a routine audit of Dilworth Insurance Agency in Charlotte following a complaint against agency owner, Michael Arthur Howell.

Chrissy Pearson, communications director with NCDOI said Rohrbach is one of four agency examiners employed by the Department. The examiners generally follow up on “run-of-the-mill complaints” and normally work alone, Pearson added. She said the examiners do not have law enforcement authority.

The Charlotte Observer reported Charlotte police charged Howell, 40, of Indian Trail, N.C., with first-degree murder and that the suspect is being held in the Mecklenburg County jail.

Rohrbach’s car was found May 18 at a restaurant in Charlotte, less than a mile from the agency. Pearson said no one at NCDOI has heard from Rohrbach since May 14. The examiner had been scheduled to return to Raleigh on May 16.

“The agent (Howell) saw her leave his office Wednesday,” Pearson said. “We became very concerned by Friday night. It all adds up to a big question mark.”

Rohrbach’s husband, Tim, told The News & Observer of Raleigh that his wife sent him an e-mail May 13 that said she was meeting friends the next evening in Charlotte. She didn’t show up, he said.

Police had the agency cordoned off early Monday. They did not say how they linked Howell to Rohrbach or whether a body had been found. Police spent the day Sunday searching the area around the restaurant with help from firefighters, tracking dogs and a helicopter. Nine criminal investigators from the North Carolina Insurance Department were sent to Charlotte to help in the case.

“This is obviously time sensitive and we want to get as much done in as short a time period as we can,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Capt. Alan Rutledge told The News & Observer.

While Pearson could not disclose the nature of the grievance against Howell’s agency, she said it was not a “heavy duty complaint.” She said examples of typical complaints assigned to examiners involve things like finances, ethical concerns and licensing issues. Howell was the only licensed agent at Dilworth Insurance Agency, she added.

Howell will make his first appearance before a judge on May 20.

The Associated Press contributed to this article