By Beth Lawrence
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Whittier man on charges he stalked a neighbor and damaged property belonging to the neighbor and potentially others.
Law enforcement officers also believe the suspect might have tried to flatten tires on U.S. 74/441.
Horace Leon Jones Jr., 55, of Morning Glory Road, Whittier, was arrested on four counts of felony stalking, four counts of misdemeanor simple assault, three counts of misdemeanor injury to personal property and 62 counts of misdemeanor putting an injurious object in the road, according to documents on file at the Jackson County Clerk of Court’s office.
The arrests are the latest in a long-running dispute between Jones and neighbor William Pruitt, Major Shannon Queen of the Sheriff’s Office said.
The argument began over access to a shared right of way between properties owned by the two families.
“The dispute between Jones and the neighbor has been an ongoing civil issue, as told to us, since 2017,” Queen said. “Pruitt has made three incident reports on property damage since 2017 all listing Jones as the suspect, but additionally has stayed in contact with the investigating detective on numerous other occasions regarding damage to his property.”
In the latest incidents, Jones is alleged to have targeted Pruitt by placing improvised devices that law enforcement believes were designed to flatten tires in the right of way near Pruitt’s property and later on a nearby highway. The devices were made of screws and washers, driven into pieces of shingle, attached with silicone and painted black to blend with the roadway. The shingle was used to make the screws stand upright, Queen said.
The screws were placed in a turnabout lane before the Barkers Creek Straight, approximately eight-tenths of a mile before Uncle Bill’s Flea Market.
“The intentional damage originally started in the easement access to the victim’s property, but most recently it started happening on U.S. 74/441 at a turnaround spot in the highway near Elders (Superette) store,” Queen said.
A detective obtained probable cause to arrest Jones by staking out the turnabout during the early morning hours and determined Jones’ acts to be intentional.
Pruitt reported approximately nine incidents of flat tires totaling $1,500 in damages.
The Sheriff’s Office is still investigating, and additional charges could be brought against Jones, Queen said.
Detective Dray Holland is seeking other drivers who may have been affected by the devices.
“Jones may have targeted Pruitt in these efforts, but numerous other flat tires could have been obtained by others using the highway,” Queen said.
Anyone with information about the incidents or who may have had a flat tire due to the gadgets is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 586-8901.
Court documents from the 2017 civil suit list a number of complaints from Pruitt against Jones, including placing logs and other debris in the right of way, moving hog and turkey pens to an area alongside Pruitt’s property, diverting water from a creek in an attempt to destroy Pruitt’s access to the right of way, and destroying trees and rhododendrons belonging to Pruitt.
In some of the complaints, the judge found in favor of Jones, but the majority of the grievances were decided in favor of Pruitt.
Jones was ordered to move his animal pens, pay $36,000 in damages for the trees bushes and damages to the right of way, and have no further contact with Pruitt except through an attorney.