Suspect in horse barn fire to stand trial for removing electronic tether

Horse barn follow up

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - A man under investigation for an arson fire that killed 13 horses is heading to circuit court on a tampering charge for allegedly cutting off an electronic tether he was ordered to wear within days of the early April fire.

Payton Mellema waived a preliminary hearing in 63rd District Court on Monday, July 31, sending the case to Kent County Circuit Court.

He agreed to waive the hearing after a forensic examination determined Mellema understands the charge against him and can assist in his own defense.

Mellema, 20, was already a suspect in the fire on Timpson Avenue SE when Kent County Circuit Court Judge Donald A. Johnston ordered that he be outfitted with the tether as an amendment to his probation.  The judge in November placed Mellema on probation for 2½ years for a home invasion conviction.

Mellema wore the tether for 18 days before cutting it off on April 30. He was locked up in the Kent County Jail the next day for tampering with an electronic monitoring device, a two-year offense.

►Related: Suspect in Lowell horse barn fire called a public safety risk, jailed for probation violation
►Related: 13 therapy horses killed in barn fire, criminal investigation underway

Judge Jeffrey O’Hara on Monday opted to keep Mellema’s bond at $200,000. The judge set it at that amount in May, noting Mellema’s criminal history, a personal protection order taken out against him in April and Mellema’s mental health.

Mellema was fitted with an electronic ankle tether on April 12, but it was causing him discomfort, defense attorney Jeffery Crampton said earlier.

Mellema was sentenced to probation for a July, 2016 break-in at a neighbor’s home in which a .22 caliber firearm was taken.

The neighbor in that case got a personal protection order against Mellema shortly after the break-in.  “It is believed he has been in my home on numerous occasions,’’ the woman wrote.

Kathryn A. Welton, owner of The Barn for Equine Learning in Lowell Township, obtained a personal protection order against Mellema less than a week after the April 8 horse barn fire.

Mellema lives next door to the facility. No charges have been filed in that case.

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