Tuesday, 04 May 2021 12:50

Dobbins Heights arson suspect located by deputies near Hamlet

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HAMLET — A man suspected of starting a fire in a Dobbins Heights home Monday has been apprehended.

Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge, of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, said Tuesday morning that deputies located 48-year-old Mack Lewis Wertz Jr. at a business west of Hamlet and that he was arrested without incident.

According to Richmond County Jail records, Wertz is facing the following charges: three counts of violating a domestic violence protection order; as well as one count each of second-degree arson, felony stalking, breaking and entering, injury to personal property, communicating threats, and domestic criminal trespassing.

Wertz is currently being held without bond and is scheduled to appear in court May 10.

According to Gulledge, deputies were called Monday when the alleged victim went to the magistrate’s office to file charges against Wertz.

She reported that Wertz had been tampering with a security camera at her home that she could view remotely and that he was there at the time, Gulledge said.

Deputies responded to the home where they saw smoke and, in turn, called the Hamlet Fire Department.

Hamlet Fire Chief Calvin White, smoke was showing when crews arrived on scene, but no flames were visible.

White said firemen found the fire, which was isolated to one bedroom, and extinguished it pretty quickly. He added that, although the fire was contained to one room, the rest of the house sustained smoke damage, but the home should be livable again after a clean-up and inspection.

No one was injured.

The American Red Cross was called in to help the family find a place to stay for the night since power had to be cut off at the residence, White said.

Gulledge said deputies searched the house and area for Wertz, then called the 911 Center to inform Richmond County School’s of the situation and secure nearby Monroe Avenue Elementary.

RCS Public Information Officer Jasmine Hager said the school was placed on lockdown, but students were allowed to leave when classes were dismissed early due to a tornado watch.

The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation was called in to assist with the arson investigation, according to Gulledge.

Wertz has prior criminal convictions in five counties going back 30 years, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety Division of Adult Correction.

He was first convicted in 1990 of conspiracy to commit an unspecified felony in Wayne County, records show. However, it appears that conspiracy charge was related to common law robbery, as Wertz’s probation was revoked in 1992 when he was convicted in Scotland County of breaking and entering an larceny over $200.

That conviction came a week after being released from serving three months for assault on a female and simple assault in Scotland County.

In 1995, records show Wertz was convicted on assault, trespassing and property damage charges, also in Scotland County.

The following year, Wertz was convicted in three counties on the following charges:

  • Richmond - crime against nature
  • Moore - Larceny of a motor vehicle
  • Hoke - injury to real property, resisting a public officer

Wertz was released from prison in late June of 1997, but found himself behind bars again after being convicted of first-degree burglary and being a convicted felon in Wayne County.

He was released in July of 2008, but his release was revoked nearly three months later, sending him back to prison for nine months. While serving that time, Wertz was convicted on two counts of communicating threats in Hoke County, extending his incarceration until August.

Records show Wertz appeared to stay out of trouble for nearly a decade. However, he was convicted again in 2018 of attempted kidnapping, assault on a female and larceny of a motor vehicle in Hoke County — stemming from an incident in 2010.

His release was partially revoked in 2019, resulting in another three-month incarceration.

All defendants facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.