Lowell, Michigan – As reported in April, 13 therapy horses at The Barn for Equine Learning were locked in a barn, the barn set on fired, and all 13 perished in the flames. Authorities have identified the primary suspect, 20-year-old Payton Jonathan Mellema.
Mellema was outfitted with an electronic tether just 4 days after the fire as a condition of probation for a 2016 home invasion conviction. He had violated his previous probation terms, and the judge ordered him outfitted with the tether. Mellema honored the probation agreement for just 18 days before cutting the tether. He was arrested, and during the probation violation argument to the court, prosecutors identified Mellema as the primary suspect in the horse barn fire. “…there’s been escalating behavior by the defendant, including trespassing, tampering with property, borderline stalking behavior. On April 8th there was an arson in which 13 horses were locked in a barn on the property immediately adjacent to the defendant’s home and burned to death. And that arson is currently being investigated and the defendant is the primary suspect,” Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Helmer told the court.
Just days after the barn fire, owner Kay Welton was granted a personal protection order, banning Mellema from being approaching her, going on her property, or in any other way contacting her. She cited previous trespassing, a dead owl that Mellema left on her porch, horses let out, fences cut, and other stalking type behavior.
Mellema’s bond was set at $50,000.
The Barn for Equine Learning has raised $36,000 in their GoFundMe to rebuild.Author: Dale Williams <-- Become my friend on Facebook! - Phone: 724-964-6773
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