Michigan Man Pleads Guilty to Fatal Barn Fire

A Michigan man has pleaded guilty to a barn fire that claimed the lives of 13 therapy horses earlier this year.

In April, the Lowell, Michigan, fire department responded to a call about a fire at The Barn for Equine Learning. All 13 horses in the barn at the time of the fire were killed.

After an investigation by the Kent County Sheriff's Office and the Michigan State Police Department, Payton Mellema was charged with third-degree arson and animal cruelty, both felony charges.

“The arson charge carries penalties of up to 10 years in jail and the animal cruelty charge carries a penalty of four years (in jail),” said Attorney Kellee Konchi, of the Kent County Prosecutor's Office. “But we were able to convince the defense to accept a plea agreement and plead guilty to the charges.”

Under the deal, Mellema will serve five years' probation, three of which will be served in a secure facility of the court's choosing.

If he fails to comply with the term of the agreement, Mellema will serve the full sentences connected to the charges, Konchi said.

Mellema will remain in the Kent County Correctional Facility until the appropriate probation site is found, Konchi said.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More