Man Pleads Guilty in Lowell Barn Fire that Killed 13 Horses
20-year-old Payton Mellema has pleaded guilty to charges in connection with a barn fire in Lowell that killed thirteen therapy horses.
Wood TV 8 reports that on Thursday, Mellema pleaded guilty to third-degree arson and animal cruelty.
April 8, The Barn for Equine Learning was set on fire and locked from the inside. The owners unable to rescue the 13 therapy horses trapped inside.
Mellema had previously been a volunteer there. According to the Kent County Prosecutor, he has a history of mental health and behavioral issues.
As part of the plea deal, he'll serve five years probation, with the first three years at secure treatment facility. Mellema will be officially sentenced Oct. 31.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to support The Barn for Equine Learning. The owners posted the following message after the fire:
It is with an incredibly heavy heart that I share the news that the Barn suffered a tragedy last night. We lost our barn and 13 of our wonderful horses to a fire. This information is so hard for us to process and it still feels like a bad dream at this point. We know that this is going to be challenging for every person who The Barn and the horses have meant something to. However, as is so often the case with each person who comes out to The Barn, we recognize that any tragedy and challenge can be overcome. We are not yet sure what the road to rebuilding will look like at this point, but we know that The Barn meant so much to so many people, and like any challenge we have met before, we will walk through this trial step by step and continue to fulfill our mission of reaching people wherever they are at in their lives."