Roan Mountain man nabbed after N.C., Tenn. pursuits

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   A Roan Mountain man was arrested Friday by a North Carolina Highway Patrol officer following a hit-and-run accident and pursuit in Newland, N.C. Following his release from Avery County Jail late Saturday afternoon, he then was involved in a pursuit in Roan Mountain and was apprehended by Carter County Sheriff's Department.
   According to Sgt. Eddie Hughes of Avery County Sheriff's Department, Matthew Shell, 26, 449 Bear Branch Road, was driving a stolen Mazda Protégé when he struck another vehicle in the town of Newland.
   "Most of the pursuit was on foot," Hughes said. Shell was attempting to flee in the Mazda following the accident, "but it was so tore up, he didn't make it very far."
   Shell then tried to get a ride in a vehicle he apparently had flagged down, Hughes said, when a firefighter from Newland Fire Department approached and advised him that he was just involved in a hit-and-run and was to stay at the scene.
   "That's when Shell punched him in the jaw. Apparently the fireman took him down and held him down on the ground until Newland Police Officer Ben Townsend got there," Hughes said.
   North Carolina Trooper Toby Collins took Shell into custody and charged him with hit and run, failure to stop, property damage, reckless driving to endanger, and driving while license revoked, Hughes said. Shell also was charged with simple assault for striking the fireman.
   Late Friday night, Newland Police served a warrant on Shell for possession of stolen goods, "which was the vehicle he was driving," Hughes said.
   No one was seriously injured in the hit-and-run, according to the officer, however, Shell received " a couple of broken fingers."
   Sgt. George Skeans of Carter County Sheriff's Department, upon verifying that Shell was being held in Avery County, was in the process of preparing warrants Saturday afternoon for Shell's arrest in connection with two county auto thefts. However, before the information could be entered into the National Crime Information Center and Avery County could place a hold on Shell, he was bonded out of Avery County Jail.
   Shell was spotted a couple hours later at the APPCO Station in Roan Mountain. According to Sheriff John Henson, when Deputy Al Meehan pulled into the station to check the vehicle in which Shell was reported to be a passenger, Shell got out and ran behind the station, across Doe River, through a yard and into a brier thicket.
   Deputy Meehan called for backup officers and was joined by Deputy Brad Johnson and the sheriff. Deputy Meehan found Shell lying "up under the bank of the creek," entangled in briers, the sheriff said. He was apprehended without incident.
   According to Sgt. Skeans, Shell is charged with the Aug. 5 theft of a 1996 Mazda Protégé from Larry Townsend, 119 Townsend Road, Roan Mountain. The Mazda was the vehicle Shell wrecked Friday in Avery County.
   He also is charged with Tuesday's theft of a 2000 Chevrolet S-10 pickup belonging to Sam Henry Oliver, 171 Bear Branch Road, Roan Mountain. Sgt. Skeans said Oliver had driven to the APPCO in Roan Mountain and had gone inside the store, where he stayed about 10 minutes. When he came out, the truck was missing. Oliver left the keys inside the vehicle while he was inside the store.
   "About 30 minutes after that, we got word that Matthew was seen at a place of business and also a private residence in Elk Park, N.C., driving the truck," Skeans said.
   Shell also has a case pending in Carter County Criminal Court in which he is charged with the March 22, 2001, aggravated robbery of King of the Road beer store in Roan Mountain in which $3,900 in cash was taken, Skeans said.