A former North Carolina police chief who was charged with more than 70 felony crimes is accused of staging suicide and fleeing to South Carolina, where he was arrested, officials announced.
William Anthony Spivey, 36, who served as chief of the Chadbourn Police Department, was relieved of duty last spring due to a misconduct investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations, the Horry County Police Department said in a news release.
His charges included evidence mishandling, drug trafficking and embezzling, police said.
Nearly a year after the charges were announced, he was reported missing on Feb. 21, last known to be on a fishing trip in the Lumber River in Columbus County, North Carolina.
The Columbus County Sheriff's Office was alerted about an abandoned boat, prompting the investigation and an extensive water search by multiple local and state agencies.
North Carolina Wildlife Officers spoke to people in the area and learned Spivey was last seen driving a truck in the area and owned the abandoned boat in the Lumber River.
Sheriff’s Office investigators also spoke to Spivey’s friends and family at the scene.
“Family members described the incident as a possible suicide,” the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
Investigators found handwritten letters at the scene and a .22 caliber rifle with a discharged round still in the rifle.
However, investigators concluded the evidence collected didn’t support “a suicide scenario.”
Further, video collected from surveillance systems and interviews made it “more apparent that the scene on the river was staged.”
On Wednesday, warrants were issued for Spivey’s arrest for failure to report to court and he was entered as missing and wanted, the sheriff's department said.
A break in the case came when the Horry County Police Department in South Carolina received a tip Wednesday regarding Spivey and contacted the Columbus County Sheriff's Office.
Together they said they found Spivey on Thursday at an apartment outside of the small city of Loris, South Carolina.
He attempted to flee into some nearby woods before he was ultimately arrested, officials said.
He is currently being held at the Columbus County Detention Center with no attorney listed, according to jail records.
The sheriff's office said Spivey has 40 outstanding warrants for failure to appear and each warrant has a bond of $25,000, bringing his total bond to $1 million.
NBC affiliate WECT of Wilmington, North Carolina, reports Spivey was arrested in April 2021, accused of repeatedly raiding the Chadbourn Police Department’s evidence room and stealing narcotics, thousands of dollars in cash and firearms.
In June, he was charged with allegedly embezzling $8,000 meant for the family of a leukemia patient. Then in January, he was arrested again, charged with stealing catalytic converters from an auto repair shop, WECT reported.
Officials said the investigation is ongoing and additional charges and arrests are likely.
"We want the citizens to know that no matter the situation, we must respond accordingly. In this case, a person was reported missing. It is our duty to do all we can to preserve life and locate the missing person," the Columbus County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. "We are thankful that we have the resources now to do so. Spivey was found alive and well. We consider that a job well done."