Local News

Suspected plane thief arrested at Chapel Hill home

Posted August 18, 2011
Updated August 19, 2011

— A Chapel Hill man accused of stealing a plane, crashing it in Alamance County and then eluding authorities since Tuesday was arrested Thursday afternoon after surrendering at his house.

Authorities captured Curtis Rene Mellott, 46, at 114 Mel Oak Drive.

He was taken to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Public Safety Department and then the Orange County magistrate's office in Hillsborough. He is in jail under a $1 million secured bond, and is expected to make his first court appearance Friday afternoon.

He is accused of stealing a single-engine Piper plane from Horace Williams Airport in Chapel Hill and crashing it into a grove of trees about 25 miles away in Graham.

He is charged with felony possession of stolen property in Alamance County and felony larceny in Orange County. Federal charges are possible if he was flying without a valid pilot's license.

Authorities believe Mellott took the plane sometime between 9 p.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday. Airport employees are only on site from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

On Tuesday morning, members of the Civil Air Patrol, responding to the plane's emergency beacon, found it off Wildlife Club Road near N.C. Highway 87. There was blood in the cockpit, but no one was on board, according to the Alamance County Sheriff's Office.

In his mugshot, Mellott has cuts on his face which may be from Tuesday's plane crash.

Alleged plane thief in custody Alleged plane thief in custody

Mellott's neighbors on Mel Oak Drive were not surprised by the ruckus. Janet Shrader, who lives across the street, said she had a gut feeling that he would get into trouble someday.

"He was a nice guy on a certain level, but it didn’t take long for us to realize something wasn’t right," she said.

Neighbors said Mellott and a roommate had lots of activity at the house, including parties and cars parked all over the lawn.

Neighbor of alleged plane thief reacts Neighbor of alleged plane thief reacts

Mellott's father, Calvin Mellott, says his son "wasn't raised this way" and "needs help." "I don't condone this," he said.  

Hillsborough businessman Larry Warren, who owns the plane, said he has never heard of Curtis Mellott and doesn't know why anyone would target his plane.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • cutl00senc Aug 24, 2011

    I grew up with this man. He was a good person. Yes, he was a rich kid, but he wasnt a snob or a brat. Just goes to show that money cannot make you happy. If this was an attempt at suicide, then its a sad case. I pray for his family for all that he has brought on them. But lets stop making more out of this story than it really is and use some common sense and some morals. People are too quick to judge and lable others that they know nothing about. Is he a criminal? Sure, but did he hurt anybody? The plane is insured and I am sure he will be responsible for all the damages and costs. So funny how when people are accusing others of criminal behavior, they want the book thrown at em, but when they break the law, the penalties are too harsh or the laws are unjustified. Until a person walks a mile in a mans shoes, they should just keep their opinions to themselves.

  • hinotediva Aug 19, 2011

    Funny this neighbor hasn't even lived there a year yet speaks for the whole neighborhood.

  • fatkatts2 Aug 19, 2011

    he's a "flight risk", hahaha. Get it?

  • dirtydozen431 Aug 19, 2011

    He has a high bond due to him being a flight risk.

  • Skywatch_NC Aug 19, 2011

    If Mellot wanted to fly so badly ...save up for a plane and take flying lessons instead of wasting money on things like partying, "party favors", etc.

  • ddeserres Aug 19, 2011

    Chapel Hill man steals plane and crashes it in the woods, WRAL is all over it. Local semiconductor company steals their employees civil rights and is dragged out of the woods by one of their victims, WRAL ignores the story for 3 years.

    That's good old boy North Carolina journalism for you.

  • EverythingTicksMeOff Aug 19, 2011

    It's a big deal on a number of levels. Planes are rarely stolen. Stolen planes can be used in terrorist attacks so is security of private planes adequate.

    I still want to know if anyone knows why he did it.

  • kota069 Aug 19, 2011

    Why is this such a "Big Deal" ????

  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Aug 19, 2011

    "He doesn;t need help..just to be locked away !"

    Yeah, for ONCE consider that society may need some help in keeping this gentleman off the streets and safely locked away.

  • zile1porkey Aug 19, 2011

    She needs to mind her business. That is his property and if he chooses to have parties then so be it. eople are always yapping when people are still living she probably wanted to join the fun but wasn't invited.If he wasn't breaking the law with his parties then it is his business. Stop looking threw blinds.