A Roseboro man, accused of setting fires in Sampson County Feb. 24 through March 1, including a massive tire fire off High House Road on Feb. 25, has pleaded guilty to those charges in Sampson County Superior Court and received a probationary sentence for the offenses.
Jerry Lee Spell, 37, of 8146 Dunn Road, Roseboro, pleaded to five counts of felonious burning of other buildings and one count of felonious setting fire to brushlands, woodlands and grasslands in court last week, the district attorney confirmed today.
Judge John E. Nobles of Carteret County sentenced Spell to four consecutive sentences of a minimum of six and a maximum of eight months for a total of a minimum of 24 months and a maximum of 32 months in jail. However, the court suspended the sentence for 36 months and Spell was placed on supervised probation.
As part of his probation, Spell cannot go on the property of the victims, has to obtain a mental health assessment, follow all recommended treatment, and take his medication as prescribed.
In addition, the defendant was ordered to pay restitution to victim Jerry Lucas, who lost approximately $5,200 of timber after a fire was set to his woodland. A restitution hearing is scheduled for Sept. 18 for the remaining victims.
“The state will attempt to obtain restitution for the victims in these cases pursuant to the court’s probationary judgment,” said District Attorney Ernie Lee. “This office will continue to monitor these cases and be in contact with his probation officer to determine whether he is compliant with the court’s order.”
According to reports, Spell pleaded guilty to burning woodland off of High House Road belonging to Lucas on Feb. 25. On Feb. 28, he set fire to an abandoned mobile home located on Minnie Hall Road.
On March 1, Spell was charged with setting more fires, but only pleaded guilty to six of them.
The first fire involved an abandoned house on Ford Road, located about three miles from Autryville; the second fire was in an abandoned house on Boren Brick Road; the third fire was of a barn on Libbie Road near Ford Road; the fourth fire was of abandoned barn on Carroll Store Road; and the fifth fire was woodland located on Hayne Stretch Road.
Spell’s truck was spotted by eyewitnesses in the area where the fires started and that led investigators to him. Once confronted with the evidence, he reportedly admitted to setting each of the fires and claimed that he was “hearing voices” during the time he set the fires.
At the time he set the fires, Spell was prescribed approximately eight medications, however, he was not taking them at the time, reports indicated. He was involuntarily committed to a mental institution on the day of his arrest.
Although he is currently out on probation, Lee said if Spell fails to comply with court orders, it would result in revocation of his probation and activation of the suspended sentence, subjecting Spell to incarceration in the North Carolina Department of Corrections.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to email@example.com.