14 Apr 2010
5 young people face federal trespassing charges in Asheville
OTEEN — Five people looking to brave a haunted house got more than they bargained for over the weekend — including a night spent in jail and federal trespassing charges. The four men and one woman were spotted about 1 a.m. Sunday at the Charles George VA Medical Center, attempting to enter Building 9, a vacant former women's dormitory off Riceville Road, according to Medical Center spokesman Dennis Mehring.
“It looks like an old haunted house — it's in very bad shape,” Mehring said, noting that the three-story structure is generally unsafe and contains asbestos and lead paint. “According to our VA police, trespassing has been a recurring problem there. Because it's old and spooky looking, rumors have been floating around about the building being haunted.”
Those arrested were charged with “trespass — entry into areas posted as closed to the public or others.”
According to Buncombe County Detention Center information, they are: Brooklyn L. Robinson, 18; Joseph S. Deese, 20; Adam Halka, 22; and Shane F. Marler, 20. A younger teenager arrested is a minor and information was not released.
The suspects could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The charge is a petty offense in the federal criminal system, the least serious level, but it still carries a potential maximum sentence of six months in prison and a $50 fine, according to Suellen Pierce, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, which will handle the prosecution.
The court case is scheduled for May 6 in federal court in Asheville.
The five arrested already spent Sunday and part of Monday morning in jail.
“(Federal) magistrates aren't working in the courthouse over the weekend,” Pierce said. “It's relatively common for individuals to be arrested for petty offenses and violations over the weekend — on federal lands, the Blue Ridge Parkway — and they'll wait until Monday to see a federal magistrate.”
Lt. Ross Dillingham of the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office said anyone 18 or older would be processed in the Detention Center's first floor area, then moved into the dormitory housing upstairs with other offenders.
The stay in jail waiting for the federal magistrate should be a wakeup call, he said.
“Parents and the kids should be mindful of what they're doing,” he said.
Mehring said the property is clearly marked with “no trespassing” signs and has a chain-link fence topped with razor wire around it.
The building, which the VA hasn't used in more than 20 years, was used in the 1990s as a “haunted house” fundraiser by the local Jaycees.
The arresting officer's report said he responded to a report of five youths “breaking into a fenced perimeter surrounding building #9.” The fence is “clearly marked with signs to indicate no trespassing,” he wrote.
The building has not been torn down because removal of the lead paint and asbestos would be expensive, Mehring said. Local historic preservationists have restored the building next door and would like to restore Building 9, but no plans have been firmed up.