Disgraced former police chief arrested after faking his own death

CHADBOURN, N.C. (WECT) – Anthony Spivey, the former Chadbourn police chief who was the subject of a missing person search along the Lumber River this week, was arrested in Horry County, South Carolina early Thursday morning.

According to Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene, Spivey was located at his aunt’s residence at an apartment complex on Watson Heritage Road in Loris, S.C. An incident report indicates he was trying to hide, submerged in a creek behind the apartment when authorities spotted him. Spivey ran from authorities but was taken into custody after a brief chase and struggle, at approximately 12:45 a.m.

Spivey’s aunt, Brenda Rowele, disputes claims she was harboring a fugitive. She said she didn’t know her nephew had missed a court appearance earlier in the week. Rowele said he called her Sunday night saying he was having marriage problems and considering suicide. She said she told him not to kill himself and said he could stay with her for a couple of nights. She said she was shocked when authorities showed up at her apartment early Thursday morning looking for him.

“I was told different stories, but I do know and I will state to the fact that he is not no drug addict like they say he is. Columbus County cops is doing him wrong,” Rowele said of her nephew’s legal troubles.

Spivey, who currently is being held at the J. Reuben Detention Center in Horry County, has 40 outstanding warrants for failure to appear for a total bond of $1 million. He is facing dozens of criminal charges after being arrested in April 2021, accused of repeatedly raiding the Chadbourn Police Department’s evidence room, and stealing a variety of narcotics, and thousands of dollars in cash, and firearms. In June 2021, Spivey was charged with embezzling $8,000 meant for a family whose died following a battle with leukemia.

In August, Spivey managed to post a $500,000 bond to get out of jail while awaiting trial on those charges, despite efforts by Columbus County District Attorney Jon David to keep him behind bars. Some suspected Spivey was related to the bail bondsman who got him out of jail because they shared the same last name, but the owner of the bail bonding company tells WECT there is no blood relation to the best of her knowledge, and this was a standard transaction.

After bonding out, Spivey was arrested again, charged with stealing catalytic converters from an auto repair shop in Tabor City in January 2022. The shop hired him as a mechanic following his termination from the police force. Court documents indicate the DA’s office again lobbied to have Spivey’s bond increased or revoked on February 4, noting he “poses a threat to the community.”

David also filed a Nebbia motion, which is used to prevent defendants from using ill-gotten gains to post bond. He was concerned that Spivey may have used stolen money to bond out of jail, but the judge determined Spivey’s use of a bail bondsman offset those concerns.

Spivey missed a court appearance earlier this month, telling the court through his attorney that he could not attend because he had COVID. When he missed another court appearance on Monday, his attorney informed the judge Spivey was missing, and may have taken his own life.

The CCSO says it was contacted on Monday by North Carolina Wildlife officers about an abandoned boat located in the Lumber River near the Sandhills Hunting Club. Wildlife officers were told that Spivey was last seen driving a truck found at the location and that the boat belonged to him.

“Deputies arrived on the scene, along with Sheriff’s Office Investigators and Special Operations Units, including the Man Tracking and Dive Units,” the sheriff’s office stated in a news release. “As the Sheriff’s Office began to search the area, investigators spoke to Spivey’s friends and family who were at the scene. Investigators began collecting evidence. Family members described the incident as a possible suicide.”

Investigators collected handwritten letters at the scene, along with the boat, which contained a .22 caliber rifle with a discharged round still in it.

“Investigators quickly concluded that the evidence collected did not support a suicide scenario,” the news release states. “However, with Spivey still missing, dive crews searched waters, and tracking teams searched the wooded areas for Spivey. Search and rescue crews conducted searches for three days, including several agencies assisting with aerial coverage, K9 sniffing, and sonar scanning. Meanwhile, Criminal Investigators were conducting a separate investigation.”

“As investigators collected video from surveillance systems and conducted interviews, it became even more apparent that the scene on the river was staged.”

While search crews combed the river for signs of Spivey’s body, the U.S. Marshals and agents from the State Bureau of Investigation were chasing down leads he was still alive. David had informed the court that due to the unusual circumstances, they should allow for the possibility Spivey staged his disappearance.

On Wednesday, authorities received a tip Spivey was hiding at his aunt’s residence in Loris, SC, and a judge issued a Failure to Appear order for his arrest.

After Spivey was apprehended Thursday morning, District Attorney Jon David sent extradition papers to Horry County to have Spivey returned to North Carolina. If Spivey waives extradition, David said it would be Friday at the earliest before he is returned to local custody.

The Columbus County Sheriff’s Office says the investigation is ongoing and that additional charges and arrests are likely. They are planning to have a joint press conference with the District Attorney Friday at 2 p.m.

Copyright 2022 WECT. All rights reserved.

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