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Sheriff probes home invasion death, robbery

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Pasquotank Sheriff Randy Cartwright's office is investigating a home invasion and robbery at this house in the 1800 block of Darian Drive where a man died early Thursday following an altercation with an intruder.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office says a local man died early Thursday following an altercation with someone who had broken into his house, apparently to rob him.

Milton Henry Sawyer, 55, died at his home in the 1800 block of Darian Drive, Elizabeth City, Sheriff Randy Cartwright said in a press release Thursday afternoon.

Sawyer operated the Treasure Hunter antiques shop at the corner of North Road Street and Colonial Avenue in Elizabeth City.  

According to Cartwright, both Sawyer and his wife were assaulted by the person who broke into their home about 12:30 a.m. Thursday. Sawyer died after an altercation with the suspect, Cartwright said.

The break-in suspect then robbed the couple of money, jewelry and other valuables before fleeing. 

Cartwright said Sawyer’s wife was treated and released for unspecified injuries from a local hospital.

Cartwright said no arrests have been made in the home invasion or Sawyer’s death. He also said no warrants have been issued for any suspects.  

Both the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation are investigating the incident, Cartwright said. The cause of Sawyer’s death will be determined following an autopsy by the state medical examiner’s office, he said.

Sawyer’s neighbors seemed stunned by what had happened.

Joel Ouellette, a petty officer second class in the U.S. Coast Guard, said he found out something was wrong after sheriff’s deputies knocked on his door about 3 a.m.

Ouellette said by the time he got to the door, the deputies had moved on. However, when he looked out a window, he saw sheriff's patrol vehicles and yellow crime scene tape around the Sawyer residence.

Because he and his family have lived in the Darian Drive neighborhood only about a year, Ouellette said he didn’t know Sawyer. Nonetheless, he was saddened by what had happened.

"That's insane. I mean, it's crazy. This is a quiet neighborhood. I never would have expected something like that," he said.

Steve Saunders, who lives down the street from the Sawyer residence, knew Sawyer.

"Milton loved antiques and he loved collectibles. And Milton spent his life doing what he loved doing," he said.

Saunders, a manager with Dominion Energy, said he always enjoyed himself whenever he got together with Sawyer. 

"He always had good stories and was always very encouraging," he said.

Saunders said he and Sawyer also shared a common bond: Although they were Northeastern High School students at different times, they played in the NHS marching band when it was directed by Scott Callaway.

"We always went back and reminisced about how blessed we were to be in the band and have that great leadership kickoff as young people to become leaders in the community," Saunders said.

Asked about losing his friend and neighbor, Saunders called it “a real shame.”

“I think it speaks of where we are as a society today, that we all need to be safe, we need to be considering the surroundings, what's going on around us," he said.

Saunders described Darian Drive as a “very quiet neighborhood."

"The sheriff lives across the street," he noted. "So far as a neighborhood, we still feel very safe. I do feel like this was very random."

Cartwright is asking anyone with information about the investigation to contact his office at 338-2191 or Crime Line at 335-5555. 

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