Sallie Rohrbach murdered while auditing Michael Howell’s business; Homicide City: Charlotte Investigates

Family photo of Sallie Rohrbach
Sallie Rohrbach was murdered while investigating embezzlement for the state of North Carolina. Pic credit: Family photo

On May 12th, 2008 Sallie Rohrbach, an insurance examiner, working for North Carolina state, traveled to Charlotte to perform an audit on Dilworth Insurance Agency. She was reported missing a couple of days later. Her state-owned vehicle was found in a Bojangles parking lot; the keys along with an amount of cash were left inside it.

Despite not having a body, police arrested Michael Howell, who was the owner of the business that Sallie, 44, had been investigating.

Howell, 41 years old at the time, had been under investigation for embezzlement. He later confessed that Rohrbach had been asking too many questions, which caused him to snap and hit her with a computer stand. After he had disposed of her body, he’d left her car in the Bojangles restaurant hoping that it would be stolen, thereby confusing the police.

DNA evidence found in Rohrbach’s car and in Howell’s vehicle linked him to her murder, which facilitated police charging Howell before they had found a body.

In exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty, Howell agreed to tell investigators where he had hidden her body. She was found in a private wooded area 23 miles south of Charlotte. Her body was so badly decomposed that an exact cause of death was never determined.

Howell was convicted of first-degree murder of Sallie Rohrbach and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He also pleaded guilty to 25 counts of embezzlement.

Mugshot of Michael Howell
Michael Howell pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and embezzlement. Pic credit: North Carolina Dept. of Corrections

Friends, family, and customers of Howell all expressed immense surprise at the crime he committed; it was considered wholly out of character.

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His defense attorney said, “His whole life story leading up to this would be someone who would never do such a thing.”

He then added, “No one would have predicted he would do such a thing, and unfortunately, he did.”

One customer of Howell said, “It was very hard because I like him – he’s such a nice guy.”

Watch the case on Homicide City: Charlotte at 8/7c on Investigation Discovery.

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