An abandoned house adjacent to the corn maze is a total loss to fire, and a former Newberry Cornfield Maze security guard was arrested for abuse of an elderly employee, but the cause of the fire cannot be determined.
According to Alachua County Fire Marshal John Adler, no arson charges will be filed in the blaze that started at about 11 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 16th.
The Newberry Fire Department was first to arrive on the scene and began extinguishing the fire. They notified the fire marshal when it was reported that the blaze might have been set by a disgruntled employee.
According to Adler the exact cause of the fire that destroyed one of two abandoned small houses adjacent to the maze cannot be determined. The lost structure had no electricity hooked up.
Adler’s report states that a 360-survey was, “completed using a counter-clockwise pattern starting at the east side of the building. Fire pattern tracing places the origin of the fire to the west side porch.”
Adler found remains of a recliner at the origin of the fire and a small amount of burnt debris was noted in a fire pit nearby the structure which fire tracing showed did not contribute to the structure fire.
The abandoned building was part of the haunted corn maze experience, Adler said. A staff member would stay at the house, come out and scare visitors.
According to Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, that staff member was Matthew Deavitt, 23 of Old Town.
Before the blaze started, Deavitt was fired from his job when he did not come out of the house and play his part at least twice as hayrides passed by the structure, according to Adler.
Deavitt was removed from the property after being fired, but witnesses say he was involved in a struggle with a 71-year-old security guard.
According to the ACSO report, a witness said that Deavitt struck the victim in the head with a gallon jug filled with liquid while being escorted off of the property.
Deputies caught up with Deavitt at the Marathon gas station in Newberry where according to the report, Deavitt said that he, “clocked him,” because he was being pushed by security and not released so he could leave the maze.
Deavitt was arrested for aggravated battery on a victim 65 years of age or older.