Body Found In Smithfield May Be Linked To Man Killed In Chase

Smithfield Police are investigating the death of woman found in the backyard of her home as a homicide.  It may be linked to a man who died in a high speed chase on Highway 70 near Clayton on Monday afternoon.

At 6:51am Tuesday, Police Chief Keith Powell said officers were dispatched to 617 South Fourth Street for a missing person.  The female victim was last seen around 2:30pm at the residence. Police searched around the home and found the body of the missing female in the yard.  Chief Powell said her death is being treated as a homicide.  Authorities have not said how she was killed. Her name has not been released pending notification of family members.

The woman was an acquaintance of 26 year-old Enrique Lopez of Smithfield who died in a pursuit with law enforcement officers Monday afternoon.  Around 4:00pm, Lopez reportedly stole a wrecker from Paul Auto Sales on S. Brightleaf Boulevard.  Deputies, police and state troopers began chasing the stolen wrecker on Black Creek Road in Four Oaks. The pursuit continued onto Highway 210 and Swift Creek Road before turning onto Highway 70 towards Clayton.

During the case, Lopez allegedly fired on officers while speeding and attempting to elude officers.  Troopers returned fire as they neared the Clayton city limits.  The pursuit ended when Lopez crashed the stolen wrecker into a tree on the eastbound shoulder of Highway 70 near Hardee Lane.

The Highway Patrol announced Tuesday they determined Lopez was struck by a trooper’s gunfire during the altercation.  The Medical Examiner’s Office is currently attempting to determine the cause of death as Lopez was pronounced deceased at the crash scene.

Trooper J. J. Kiser, a 9-year veteran stationed in Johnston County has been placed on administrative duty pending an internal investigation which is agency protocol in any trooper-involved shooting.  The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is conducting an independent criminal investigation at the request of the Highway Patrol.

Anyone who has any information about the South 4th Street homicide is asked to contact Smithfield Police Detective Blinson at 919-934-2121.