Father charged in dirt pit collapse deaths appears in court



LINCOLNTON, N.C. - A father charged in the deaths of his daughter and her cousin faced a judge for the first time Friday morning.

Jordan Arwood, 31, stood by himself in court, his hands visibly shaking at times. He said he will be hiring his own attorney.

As he left the courtroom, he turned to reporters and said, “You guys have got a tough job.”

The district attorney said he knew this case would get a lot of attention.

Arwood was charged Thursday with involuntary manslaughter five months after 6-year-old Chloe Arwood and 7-year-old James Caldwell were killed when one side of a large dirt pit Arwood was digging with a backhoe collapsed on the children.

It took rescuers 12 hours to recover the bodies of the children behind Arwood’s parents’ home on Cedarbrook Court in Stanley. Neighbors said Arwood was helping lay the groundwork for a new home, but officials said he did not have the proper permits.

Detectives said Arwood showed culpable negligence in the deaths of the children. The judge told Arwood the two counts of involuntary manslaughter carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

"If I thought about losing my child, it just, it brings tears to my eyes," said mother Stephanie Howeard.

Howard is the mother of a 2-year-old and a Lincoln County resident that has kept up with the case for one thing.

"I hope that they get down to some hard core evidence," Howard said.

Arwood is scheduled to appear in court for what will likely be a probable cause hearing Oct. 10. The district attorney would then reveal more about the evidence in the case.

Arwood is being held in the Harven A. Crouse Detention Center on $15,000 bond.