WILMINGTON, N.C. — Authorities in Louisiana on Friday arrested a North Carolina man in connection with the 2017 rape and murder of his 5-year-old niece.
David Wesley Prevatte, 23, of Wilmington, was taken into custody in Bayou Blue, an unincorporated community about 55 miles southwest of New Orleans. It was not immediately clear what he was doing in Louisiana.
Prevatte was being held Monday in the Lafourche Parish Detention Center as he awaits extradition to North Carolina.
Prevatte is accused of killing Paitin Renee Fields in November 2017 in their family’s home. Pender County Sheriff’s Office investigators have secured warrants for Prevatte’s arrest on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree statutory rape and statutory sex offense with a child.
Paitin was the daughter of Prevatte’s sister, Lora Flowers.
“This has been an ongoing investigation and I am extremely proud of the effort that has been put into this investigation by my personnel,” Pender County Sheriff Alan Cutler said Friday. “I also would like to express my thanks to Sheriff Craig Webre and his staff in Lafourche Parish for assisting our investigators with taking Prevatte into custody.”
Authorities in Louisiana and North Carolina said Paitin was found unresponsive in her family’s home Nov. 13, 2017. She was rushed to a hospital, where doctors discovered evidence of sexual assault and strangulation.
Paitin died three days later at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. An autopsy confirmed that the girl had been raped and strangled.
The autopsy report, which was obtained by WECT in Wilmington, stated that Paitin showed no signs of life when she was carried into the emergency room. Medical staff noticed what appeared to be ligature marks on the girl’s neck.
Her family said she had been sick with an upper respiratory infection, but that she appeared to be well before Prevatte said he found her unresponsive and seizing, the news station reported.
WWAY-TV in Wilmington reported that Paitin’s face, neck and head showed signs of strangulation, including eyes that were bloodshot from popped blood vessels. One of her lungs had hemorrhaged and her brain showed a “patchy duskiness” consistent with a loss of oxygen.
Over the next 24 hours, the girl “lost her remaining cranial nerve reflexes and was progressing towards brain death,” the report stated. Eventually, she showed “no electrical activity in the brain.”
Prevatte became a suspect in his niece’s slaying in 2018 after the then-19-year-old was accused of threatening the lead investigator in the case. According to North Carolina authorities, he was in the Pender County Jail on unrelated charges on April 28, 2018, when he called his mother.
He made the threats during that conversation.
“When I get out, Leatherwood (the lead investigator) got it coming to him and I will probably go back to jail,” he told his mother, according to a warrant obtained by WWAY-TV. “Leatherwood is coming to an end … and I been in here plotting. I hope they know that. That’s all I been doing.”
The Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office reported that Prevatte pleaded guilty in March 2019 to intimidating a witness, as well as the unrelated charges that put him behind bars in the first place. He served about 10 months in jail before being released in January 2020.
In a July 2018 jailhouse interview, Prevatte told a WECT reporter that he did not kill his niece.
“The reason that (the investigator) said I’m a suspect is because, he simply just said that I was 19 years old, so that automatically made me a suspect for it,” Prevatte said from behind the plexiglass barrier in the visitor’s room. “I didn’t do nothing.”
The alleged killer cited his efforts to revive the girl as proof he didn’t harm her.
“I was there and, like, everything that happened, you know, happened, and I did CPR and all that on her you know,” he said. “I’m the one that took her to the hospital, me and my dad did. And I sat there all the time, you know.”
Flowers supported her brother and criticized investigators in her own interview with the station.
“There is no way that my brother did this,” Flowers said. “I believe he is innocent and the detective has it out for him.”
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