Man arrested for child neglect in Main Street fire case

BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon man who allegedly left a needle within reach of his three young children and was not home when a fire broke out at the family’s Main Street apartment was arrested for child neglect Wednesday.

The Buckhannon Police Department had been searching for Melvin A. Tyler Jr., 29, since the day the apartment he lived in with his three children – a five-year-old, six-year-old and seven-year-old – caught on fire.

According to a previous story, the fire occurred at about 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 20, and was contained to one room in an apartment above Merle Norman and the Pink Hydrangea at 11 1/2 E. Main St.

The criminal complaint, filed by Patrolman Angel McCauley, charges Tyler with child neglect creating risk of serious injury, a felony.

According to the file, when McCauley responded to the Main Street to assist the Buckhannon Fire Department with a structure fire, she found the three children and their grandfather behind the building. The grandfather reportedly told police that one of the children had started the fire.

Law enforcement tried unsuccessfully to find Tyler, their father; however, he later showed up at the scene.

The fire department requested McCauley perform a ‘walk-through’ of the apartment because of “questionable items,” and when she did, McCauley allegedly found a plastic container holding several razor blades and an “uncapped loaded needle … within reach of the children.”

McCauley noted the grandfather suffered from psychological conditions that made him incapable of supervising the children, and that their father, Tyler, was aware of the conditions. When police talked with the grandfather after the fire was put out, he told them that he had been taking a nap on the couch in the Main Street apartment, and when he woke up, he discovered that Tyler had left the residence. The grandfather said he felt obligated to stay with the children so they wouldn’t be alone.

“He also stated they were getting ready to ride hover boards when [one of the children] came into the room and told him there was a fire,” McCauley wrote in the report. “After attempting to put it out, [the grandfather] made sure the kids got out of the building safely. “

“Several family members stated that Melvin (Tyler) has a history of disappearing for hours and the kids are often left with whoever will watch them with no regards to the children’s personal safety,” the report says.

The complaint also notes that the owners of a Main Street business had filed complaints about the children being left unsupervised for multiple-hour periods. While on patrol, officers with the city police department have often seen the children unsupervised, the file says.

Tyler was also charged with being a person prohibited from possessing a firearm, a misdemeanor, related to a May 5, 2020, incident, according to a second criminal complaint filed by Sgt. William Courtney with the BPD.

Bail was set at $35,000 cash or surety, and Tyler remained incarcerated as of Thursday evening.

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