B&E Suspect Eludes Capture

WINNSBORO – The Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office is seeking a North Carolina man who slipped away from a deputy last week after a car chase from the scene of one of three local church break-ins.

Investigators have identified the suspect as David Ezel Simpson, 63, whose last known place of residence was in Charlotte, and have linked Simpson to last week’s break-ins at Weeping Mary Baptist Church and New Independent Methodist Church, and suspect Simpson in an incident at Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church. According to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Simpson has a string of burglary convictions in S.C., dating as far back as 1984 when he was arrested and charged by the Cheraw Police Department. Simpson was also subsequently arrested in Clover and in Spartanburg County, and Fairfield County investigators said Simpson had only recently been released from prison prior to last week’s break-ins.

Just before 5 a.m. on May 26, a Fairfield County deputy responded to an alarm call at Weeping Mary Baptist Church at 7109 Highway 321 N. in Winnsboro. As the deputy drove his patrol car around the right side of the church, he spotted a 2002 Kia SUV with its headlights off pulling out of the church parking lot. The Kia hit the accelerator and raced south down Highway 321 with the deputy in pursuit.

Near Toatley Road, the Kia made a sweeping U-turn and headed back north on Highway 321 with the cruiser still on its tail. Back near the entrance to the Weeping Mary parking lot, the Kia hung a right on Patrick Road. At the Bull Run Road junction, the Kia attempted the hard right-hand curve to stay on Patrick Road. The speed of the Kia was too great, however, and the SUV swerved across Bull Run Road, struck a tree and overturned a few yards away from Patrick Road.

The deputy, with his sidearm drawn, approached the wreckage and ordered the driver, later identified as Simpson, out of the vehicle at gunpoint. Momentarily trapped inside the SUV, Simpson managed to kick out the glass of the driver’s side door window and crawl from the mangled heap of metal.

Simpson appeared to be unarmed, so the deputy holstered his sidearm and deployed his taser, zapping Simpson in the hip and upper back. Simpson immediately fell to the ground, but just as quickly jumped back up, yanking the taser prong from his hip and running down Bull Run Road. The deputy executed a leg-sweep, taking Simpson down again, but almost at once Simpson was back on his feet and running down Bull Run Road. A second leg-sweep from the deputy sent Simpson sprawling off the side of the road and into a barbwire fence. Determined to avoid capture, Simpson rapidly freed himself from the barbwire entanglement and fled into the nearby woods. By the time the bloodhound unit and a SLED helicopter arrived to scour the area, Simpson was nowhere to be found.

The Kia was traced back to a Simpson family member, investigators said, and items inside the SUV were identified as those having been stolen from Weeping Mary as well as from New Independent Methodist Church at 371 Odyssey Drive in Blackstock. The stolen goods – a keyboard and other miscellaneous items, worth approximately $1,100 – were returned to the churches.

The New Independent break-in occurred some time between 1 and 3 a.m. on May 26, but was not discovered until later that afternoon. The suspect, believed to be Simpson, cut the wires to the church’s alarm system and forced his way in through the front door.

A third incident also believed to be attributed to Simpson was discovered the following afternoon at Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church at 2508 Camp Welfare Road, Winnsboro. A church member there found the church bus missing from the parking lot at 12:04 p.m. on May 27. Investigators found that the church had been broken into through the front door, and that the door to the pastor’s office had also been forced open. The only thing missing were the keys to the bus, which had been kept in a desk drawer inside the pastor’s office. The bus, worth $30,000, was found a short time later parked on the side of the road with its emergency flashers on, approximately 7 miles from the church near Highway 21 N.

The Sheriff’s Office said there was not yet any definitive evidence linking Simpson to the apparently aborted theft of the bus, but DNA swabs and other evidence were still being processed as of press time. Fairfield County investigators are working with SLED and N.C. law enforcement agencies in their search for Simpson, the Sheriff’s Office said. How Simpson came to target Fairfield County is also an unknown at this time, the Sheriff’s Office said, as the investigation has established no links between Simpson and any individuals or family members locally.