Suspect still at large in San-Lee Park robbery

Oct. 26, 2013 @ 12:38 AM

Law enforcement officers are seeking the community’s help in identifying a man suspected of committing an armed robbery at San-Lee Park Friday morning.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies, searched San-Lee Park, located at 572 Pumping Station Road, and the nearby area for a 5-foot-7-inch tall white man described as weighing 175 pounds with dark, curly hair. He reportedly was wearing wire-rimmed glasses, a black cap, a black jacket and silver or gray shirt while robbing a Lee County fisherman at gunpoint shortly before 11 a.m.

Richard William Degroat, of the 200 block of Cox Maddox Road, was fishing on the backside of the upper lake at San-Lee when he was approached by an assailant with a pistol, according to Lee County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jeff Johnson.

The assailant reportedly demanded Degroat’s wallet and cell phone, took an undisclosed amount of money from the victim’s wallet before throwing it to the ground, and fled toward O’Quinn Road, Johnson said. Degroat was not injured.

Sheriff’s deputies scoured the area for several hours after the incident, enlisting help from a North Carolina Highway Patrol helicopter and a Harnett County canine officer.

“We’re just glad nobody was injured,” Johnson said. “This is really uncommon; normally, it’s really safe out there.”

Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter agreed, saying “missing persons is about the worst thing” they’ve responded to at the park.

Lee County Parks and Recreation Director John Payne referred questions to Lee County Manager John Crumpton, who said the park remained closed Friday but would reopen Saturday for its regular hours.

“This is the first incident of any kind out there like this that I’ve heard about,” Crumpton said. “And I’ve been here for six-and-a-half years.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at (919) 775-5531.

News Editor Jennifer Gentile contributed to this report.