Prosecutor names suspect in Lowell barn fire that killed 13 horses

Payton Mellema, courtesy Kent County.

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Law enforcement officials in Kent County filed charges against a man they say is a suspect in setting a barn on fire in Lowell, killing 13 therapy horses.

Payton Mellema, 20, was in court Wednesday for violating a probation order that was issued in 2016 for home invasion; prosecutors say he cut his ankle tether. He plead not guilty.

Prosecutor Chris Becker tells FOX 17 that when the topic of issuing bond came up, the prosecution argued it should be set higher due to him being a suspect in the fire that destroyed the Barn for Equine Learning.

Online jail records indicate Mellema’s bond was set at $50,000, and that he was booked Monday.

No charges have been issued in connection to the barn fire.

Mellema was named last week in a personal protection order filed against him by the owner of the barn, Kat Welton. In it, she wrote she feared that an attack on her and her animals was imminent.

The barn was destroyed in April. Police then said it appeared as if the barn was chained shut from the inside, trapping the horses.

Becker says Mellema is likely going to be arraigned Friday for cutting the tether.

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