Suspect arrested in Smithfield arson attempt, car vandalism

Suspect arrested in Smithfield arson attempt, car vandalism

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Former worker accused of throwing accelerant onto a canopy and breaking the windows of 5 vehicles

A former Smithfield Foods employee is in custody in North Carolina after she allegedly tried to set fire to company property and vandalized five vehicles in the plant’s management parking lot.

Latasha Rena Bittle, 26, Lumberton, turned herself into authorities on October 14, after the alleged incidents at the Smithfield facility, as she faced unrelated charges in another county. The Smithfield plant is located in Bladen County, North Carolina, but she turned herself in to officers in Columbus County.

Latasha Rena Bittle (Courtesy Bladen County Sheriff’s Office)

According to a document on the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) website, Bittle was booked on charges of injury to personal property and failure to appear in Columbus County. She also faces charges of breaking or entering in Henderson County.

Related to the Smithfield incident, Bittle faces one charge of second-degree trespass, damage to occupied property with an explosive, and five charges of injury to personal property.

According to a press release from the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO), Bittle allegedly threw a plastic jug with accelerants onto a break area canopy at the Smithfield plant around 7:13 a.m. on October 12, and then fled the scene in a burgundy-colored sedan. An eyewitness identified the person who threw the accelerant as Bittle.

Then, around 9 p.m. the next day, she allegedly used a hammer to smash the windows of five vehicles in the plant management parking lot. A person was seen leaving the scene, also in a burgundy sedan.

In addition to being identified by a witness, Smithfield Foods corporate officials had also identified Bittle as a potential suspect, after having sent an email on the morning of the incident.

“Bittle was disgruntled about an incident that happened while she was employed at Smithfield. During the incident, Bittle was heard stating that she would ‘burn the plant down and shoot it up,’” the BCSO stated in a press release.

BCSO investigators went to interview Bittle at the Columbus County Jail, where she confessed to the attempted arson and vandalism to cars, the BCSO stated.

Bittle, according to the BCSO, was placed in the Bladen County Detention Center under a US$4,000 secured bond.