ROCKINGHAM — The man wanted for keeping a pile of hundreds of tires in his yard — and part of his neighbor’s yard — for seven years has been arrested.
John McLaughlin of Allen Street in Rockingham was charged last week with criminal contempt of court and is being held on a $50,000 secure bond at the Richmond County Jail. The order for arrest issued Aug. 27 is the last in a series of arrest orders struck down or continued for various reasons.
McLaughlin agreed on Aug. 13 to have the tires removed by 5 p.m. Aug. 21 and show up to court the next morning. But he didn’t show, and on the morning of Aug. 22, Code Enforcement Officer Tim Combs found tires still on the property, though Combs said it appeared McLaughlin was in the process of removing them, court documents show.
McLaughlin was cited eight times between February 2011 and December 2016 for breaking the city’s nuisance ordinance 92.002D regarding the buildup of flammable materials, court documents show. The ordinance prohibits “any open place of concentration of combustible items such as mattresses, boxes, paper, automobile tires or tubes, garbage, trash, refuse, brush, old clothes, rags or any other combustible materials or objects of a like nature.”
“It became habitual,” Combs said after the order for arrest was issued, but he added that McLaughlin said in a phone call with Combs earlier this month that he had “learned his lesson.”
City Attorney Benny Sharpe said McLaughlin had 800 to 1,000 tires in his yard on Allen Street that he apparently took from tire shops to use in business transactions. Sharpe did not explain how the business was supposed to work.
“They piled up on his house almost,” Sharpe said. “It’s a wood house. If those tires caught fire, the whole block would burn.”
Combs said “any tires at all is a violation.”
Notes included in the court documents explain why it took several weeks to arrest McLaughlin. On Aug. 23, his wife told a deputy that he was not home and would not let the deputy into the house. No one came to the door on the 27th or 28th, and on the 31st, McLaughlin’s wife again said her husband was not home, at which point the notes show the deputy advised her that “this needed to be handled ASAP!!”
The wife told told a deputy again on Sept. 5 that her husband was not home. On Sept. 6, the front door was unsecured and officers spoke to another man in the home when the wife again said her husband wasn’t home, according to the notes. McLaughlin finally was arrested Sept. 12.
Carolyn McLaughlin and an individual named Mildred Dickson, also known as Mildred Thomas, also are named as defendants in the complaint, although it is unclear why.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]