5 months later, no charges in cave-in that killed two young children

5 months later, no charges in cave-in that killed two young children

Family photo of James Levi Caldwell, 7, of 5800 block ofCedarbrook Court, Stanley, NC and Chloe Jade Arwood, 6, of the 600 block of WestwayDrive, Gastonia, NC. A 13-hour search for two young cousins buried in the collapse of a construction site in eastern Lincoln County ended around daybreak Monday with the discovery of the bodies.


by ELISABETH ARRIERO / The Charlotte Observer


Posted on August 20, 2013 at 8:12 AM

LINCOLN COUNTY, N.C. -- Nearly five months after an excavation site on private Lincoln County property collapsed and killed two children, no one has been charged in the case, law enforcement officials said Monday.

“There haven’t been any charges filed yet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be,” Lt. Tim Johnson with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said. “We plan on doing charges, but we’ve got to get everything put together and ready to go first.”

Jordan Arwood was working on an excavation about 24 feet deep and 20 feet by 24 feet wide in early April when it collapsed on Arwood’s 6-year-old daughter, Chloe Jade Arwood, and 7-year-old nephew James Levi Caldwell.

Authorities believe that the children who died in the April 7 cave-in went inside the hole to retrieve a toy pickax when the ground collapsed.

The Lincoln County Building and Grounds Division had issued no building permits to Arwood, 31, authorities said in April.

Johnson said Arwood had several surveillance cameras around his property, one of which filmed the excavation site.

But Arwood told authorities that he didn’t know where the video footage of the actual cave-in is, said Johnson.

“That’s what we’ve been trying to get from him,” he said.

When asked whether Arwood had been cooperative with authorities, Johnson said “We don’t have the video from him so I would say, ‘No.’ ”

Neighbors said Arwood had been building a three-story house, with the first two floors underground.

But Sheriff David Carpenter said in April that authorities were investigating whether the hole might have had a different purpose, such as a bunker.

The sheriff had also said that he was talking with the Department of Social Services and the District Attorney’s Office to see what charges might be filed against Arwood.

Arwood has a lengthy criminal history, including convictions between 2000 and 2009 for felony possession with intent to sell or distribute marijuana, resisting a public officer, driving while license revoked and driving while impaired.

Constructing without a permit normally doesn’t typically carry a stiff penalty, Carpenter said in April. Usually, the violator is just asked to obtain a permit. But that may be different in this case given the children’s deaths, the sheriff said.

Johnson said building a case has been challenging because the office must show “culpable negligence.”

“It’s very difficult,” he said. “We’ve been working on it. We’ll do something just as quick as we can get it done.”