Home Local News RCSO: School lockdown caused by search for suspect in Dobbins Heights arson

RCSO: School lockdown caused by search for suspect in Dobbins Heights arson

Mack Wertz is wanted for arson and several other domestic-related charges. Investigators say he is currently bald.

DOBBINS HEIGHTS — A search for a man suspected of starting a Monday afternoon house fire resulted in a local school being placed on lockdown.

According to Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were called when a woman went to the magistrate’s office to file charges against 48-year-old Mack Lewis Wertz Jr.

She reported that Wertz had been tampering with a security camera at her home that she could view remotely and that he was there at the time, Gulledge said.

Deputies responded to the home where they saw smoke and, in turn, called the Hamlet Fire Department.

Hamlet Fire Chief Calvin White, smoke was showing when crews arrived on scene, but no flames were visible.

White said firemen found the fire, which was isolated to one bedroom, and extinguished it pretty quickly. He added that, although the fire was contained to one room, the rest of the house sustained smoke damage, but the home should be livable again after a clean-up and inspection.

No one was injured.

The American Red Cross was called in to help the family find a place to stay for the night since power had to be cut off at the residence, White said.

Gulledge said deputies searched the house and area for Wertz, then called the 911 Center to inform Richmond County School’s of the situation and secure nearby Monroe Avenue Elementary.


RCS Public Information Officer Jasmine Hager said the school was placed on lockdown, but students were allowed to leave when classes were dismissed early due to a tornado watch.

As of 8:30 p.m., Wertz —  who is known to travel on foot — had not been found, according to Gulledge.

The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation has been called in to assist in the arson investigation, he added.

Wertz has outstanding warrants charging him with second-degree arson, felony stalking, injury to personal property, communicating threats, domestic criminal trespassing and violating a domestic violence protection order.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is encouraged to call Richmond County Crime Stoppers at 910-997-5454 or 911.

All defendants facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Note: Info on the SBI assistance added 9:15 p.m. 5-3-21


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