Hager convicted in 2001 murder of Celeste Fowler | News
STATESVILLE - An Iredell County man has now been convicted for the 2001 murder of Celeste Fowler.
This week Thilbert Hager entered a plea of guilty to second degree murder.
The Iredell County Sheriff's Department provided a press release regarding Hager's conviction:
On March 16, 2001 Iredell County Sheriff’s Office Detectives responded to a wooded area off Brickyard road in Western Iredell County after a person discovered the nude body of a female lying in the woods, the victim had been strangled to death.
Detectives were able to match fingerprints and identified the victim as Celeste Fowler 29, of Clinton, Connecticut.
Detectives began to investigate, Captain Mike Phillips was the case officer at this time. Detectives conducted several interviews with people and also executed several search warrants and gathered evidence, two suspects were developed during the investigation, but not enough evidence for a successful prosecution at this time.
Over the next two years leads in the case evaporated and the case was at a point that could not be worked any further.
The case was followed up and periodically checked to see if any new information was available that may help in locating anyone that could have information, but no new leads were developed during this time.
In early 2008, information from a small unrelated investigation produced information that may or may not help with the case.
Captain Darren Campbell and Lieutenant Andy Poteat of the Criminal Investigation Division who also work homicides, and cold cases reopened the case and began working with the old leads and through specialized training they had received were able to conduct additional interviews of persons who had previously been interviewed and with individuals that may have been involved that were unknown at the time, leads in the case stretched from Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi and Connecticut.
In April of 2008, additional information and evidence was gathered against one of the original suspects in the case from 2001, warrants were issued for Thilbert Wayne Hager on the charge of murder.
Hager, was living at several different locations in Louisiana and Mississippi. Lieutenant Andy Poteat and another Detective traveled to Louisiana and coordinated with local police.
Captain Campbell stayed in North Carolina and with a Court Order was able to use new technology from Statesville to track Hager and then relay the information to detectives in Louisiana.
Hager was taken into custody near the small town of Pearl River located on the border of Mississippi and Louisiana by Detectives from the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office and local officers.
Hager was arrested at 64108 Louisiana Highway 3081, Lot No. 19, Pearl River, without incident just before midnight Friday, June 13, 2008.
About nine officers, including two deputies from the Iredell County Sheriff's Office, were involved in the arrest, Pearl River, LA., Police spokesman Lt. Stan Heinrich said. Hager, who came to the door wearing only sweatpants, did not resist, he said.
"It could have been bad, he had claimed Special Forces and weapons training," Heinrich said. It is unclear, however, whether Hager actually has a military background, he said.
Thilbert Wayne Hager was brought back to North Carolina to stand trial for the murder of Celeste Fowler in March of 2001.
After working closely with the District Attorney’s Office the prosecution of Hager began this past Monday, and after three days of testimony Hager entered a plea of guilty of second degree murder and will serve eleven to fourteen years in prison for the strangulation death of Celeste Fowler in 2001.
Sheriff Redmond credits the successful prosecution of Thilbert Hager to Detectives who were relentless and never gave up on solving this case, and followed up on small leads that led to evidence that was able to be used to convict Hager.
In addition, Redmond says that the continued training Deputies receive through in service training and schools helps them stay aware of changing technology that was not available when this case began.
Sheriff Redmond also stated the District Attorney’s Office and Assistant DA Scott Cranford, and Carrie Nitzu did a outstanding job in presenting the case and working with Detectives to bring closure to Celeste Fowler’s mother and children who were in Statesville all week for the trial.
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