Local News

Suspected plane thief arrested at Chapel Hill home

Posted August 18, 2011 1:43 p.m. EDT
Updated August 19, 2011 12:28 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.

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.