Charges dropped in Glenridge arson case
by Staff Writer
by Will Bryant
CORNELIUS – The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office dismissed all charges Nov. 15 against Robert Joseph Prevatte, the man accused of setting a number of fires in the Glenridge neighborhood.
Despite the charges being dismissed for insufficient evidence, Prevatte remains the prime suspect in the investigation.
According to a press release, District Attorney Andrew Murray and Cornelius Police Chief Bence Hoyle agreed that although the evidence collected was enough to arrest and indict Prevatte, it wasn’t enough convict him.
Police are still collecting evidence about the four fires that stretch back to December of last year. Investigators have not released any information on the evidence collected so far.
Prevatte, 31, who lived at 10245 Meadow Crossing Lane with his girlfriend, was released from the Mecklenburg County Jail on Monday, Nov. 14, the jail log stated. He was charged with two counts of first-degree arson, two counts of second-degree arson and two counts of burning personal property. It is unclear if he still lives at that address.
Neighbors said they are furious and fearful about his release.
“They should have never let him out,” neighbor Bill O’Connell said. “This is a joke. They caught him red handed, and now here we are going to have to sweat it out again.”
O’Connell, a contractor, and his son own five houses between them in the Glen Ridge Community. He bought two homes that were destroyed by fire in the neighborhood, and is concerned about the economic impact of another fire.
“A couple moved out before he was caught,” O’Connell said. “And a few people have moved (out of the neighborhood) since then. This is serious.”
Chief Hoyle said he sympathizes with the neighbors’ fear and anger, but the dismissal was the best way to secure a conviction.
“I don’t blame them for being upset,” he said. “Our suspect hasn’t changed, our evidence has changed, but at the same time, the standard of proof between arrest and conviction isn’t the same.”
Hoyle said he and Murray spoke a number of times about the case, and decided to drop the charges now to avoid a not guilty verdict later.
“The DA and I, after talking with him at length,” said, “felt like it is in the best interest of this case to take this dismissal now and try to improve this case over time than risk an unsuccessful outcome that will then bar prosecution, even if we were to find strong and substantial evidence in the future.”
The first fire was reported in December when a wicker chair was set ablaze on the front porch of 10524 Meadow Crossing Lane. In April, a home was gutted when a fire was set, severely damaging a neighboring home at 10250 Meadow Crossing Lane. In May, a home at 10211 Meadow Crossing Lane was destroyed by fire. The final fire was reported Aug. 27, when the remaining structure at 10250 Meadow Crossing Lane, which had been damaged in an earlier fire, was destroyed.
Prevatte was arrested Sept. 16.
Police ask anyone with information about the fire to call Cornelius police at 704-892-1363.
A timeline of the investigation
• Dec. 21, 2010 – A wicker chair is set on fire at 10524 Meadow Crossing Lane.
• April 8, 2011 – A home at 10246 Meadow Crossing Lane is gutted by fire, and a neighboring home is severely damaged
• May 31, 2011 – A home at 10211 Meadow Crossing Lane is destroyed by fire.
• Aug. 27, 2011 – A home at 10250 Meadow Crossing Lane, which was damaged in an earlier fire, is destroyed.
• Sept. 16, 2011 – Robert Joseph Prevatte is arrested and charged with arson.
• Nov. 14, 2011 – Prevatte released from prison, charges dropped.