Horses, Arson, Barn Fire, Lowell, Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A man suspected of setting a barn fire that killed 13 horses in western Michigan has been arraigned on charges of third-degree arson and killing or torturing animals.

Kent County prosecutors say 20-year-old Payton Mellema was arraigned Friday.

Only two of 15 horses survived the April 8 Lowell-area fire. The horses were used as therapy for children and young adults with a variety of special needs. Mellema lived nearby.

Investigators wrote in a probable cause affidavit that Mellema said Thursday that “he gained access to the barn and chained the doors closed. He then used an accelerant and started a small fire in the hayloft that got out of control.”

Mellema has been jailed since May on a charge of violating probation. It wasn’t clear whether he has an attorney.

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