A small plane was stolen between 9 p.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday from Horace Williams Airport, University spokesman Randy Young said.
The plane was later found crashed on Wildlife Club Road off of Highway 87 just outside Graham, Young said.
Two warrants related to the incident were issued for Curtis Rene Mellott, 46, of Mel Oak Drive, Chapel Hill.
Randy Jones, public information officer for Alamance County Sheriff’s Department, said Mellott faces a felonious larceny charge from the University’s Department of Public Safety and a charge of possession of stolen property in Alamance County.
He said he does not know Mellott’s current location, but officials nearly found him in Durham yesterday afternoon around 3 p.m. after being tipped off to his location.
“We almost got him,” he said. But he said that by time authorities arrived, Mellott had left the location.
He said something — probably the crash — triggered the plane’s emergency beacon at 4:53 a.m. Tuesday, and the Civil Air Patrol crews began a ground search at around 7 a.m. after tracking the plane to Alamance County. They found the plane at approximately 12:18 p.m.
The tail number on the plane is N492ST, confirmed Paul J. Burke, Jr., manager of Horace Williams Airport.
That number is registered to a 200 Piper Aircraft single-engine plane, according to the Federal Aviation Administration website. The registered owner is listed as LFW Investments LLC, which lists a post office box in Hillsborough as an address.
The company is registered to Larry Warren, according to the N.C. Department of the Secretary of State.
Authorities discovered that the plane had been stolen after finding the crashed plane and contacting the owner — who said he thought the plane was parked in an Orange County airport — based on its tail number registration, Jones said.
Jones said the Civil Air Patrol alerted the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department when it found the plane, and the office commenced a grid search and a canine search for the pilot around 12:45 p.m.
The investigation into the crash itself will be completed by the Federal Aviation Authority, and the offense investigation from the theft will fall under the jurisdiction of the University’s Department of Public Safety, Jones said.
Young said there has been little concern in the past about the security of Horace Williams. But he said this incident could change that.
“If we receive any voiced or shown concern, then we will respond appropriately,” he said.
University Editor Andy Thomason contributed reporting.
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