Brunswick County man pleads guilty to deadly double stabbing

Crash scene on Ocean Isle Beach Road and 2019 mugshot of Torrence O’Neal Helms (Photo: Kylie Jones/WWAY/Brunswick Co. Sheriff's Office)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A Calabash man pleaded guilty in court on Monday to stabbing a husband and wife to death in 2019.

32-year-old Torrence Helms pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, one count of robbery with a dangerous weapon, and one count of fleeing to elude arrest.

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Helms was charged with the January 9, 2019 murders of Dennis Rowell, 66, and Theresa Rowell, 55, of Shallotte, and with the attempted murder of their 19-year-old daughter.

Helms, who was considered a family friend, had been staying with the Rowells at the time of the incident.

According to the DA’s office, Holmes left the home after midnight and went with a friend to South Carolina to buy and smoke crack cocaine. Holmes returned to the home around 4:00 a.m. At approximately 4:40 a.m., the daughter, who was stabbed multiple times by Helms, was able to escape from the house and call 911. During the call, she reported that she had awoken to Helms stabbing her parents. Helms left the home in a black Kia owned by the Rowells.

While deputies were on their way to the call, they spotted Helms and chase after him, with speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. While trying to stop him, deputies used a PIT maneuver, causing the stolen SUV to catch fire and hit several trees.

Helms then ran away but was later caught in the woods nearby and taken into custody.

Helms received an active sentence of at least 17 years for the attempted murder charge, followed by a life sentence for the murder of Dennis Rowell, followed by a second life sentence for the murder of Theresa Rowell.