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Police arrest prowler suspect

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CLAYTON — Police have arrested an 18-year-old after sightings of a pantless prower in the Riverwood neighborhood.

Carlos Antonio Soto of Bobby Ray Court in Clayton faces one count of indecent exposure.

In a news release, police said home security video had captured a young man walking around homes in Riverwood Athletic Club on Dec. 6-7. “The suspect was seen walking across driveways, near front and back doors and, in some cases, was not wearing pants,” the release said.

Early on, detectives identified Soto as a suspect and interviewed him, the news release said, but building a case against him took time. “The surveillance videos clearly supported residents’ complaints,” the release said. “However, detectives needed more evidence before criminal charges could be made.”

Under North Carolina law, it’s not indecent exposure unless the perpetrator exposes his or her genitalia or anus, Stacy Beard, the town’s spokeswoman, said in a brief phone interview on Friday. That means, for example, that a woman can flash her breasts and anyone can moon someone without breaking state law, she said.

Also under current law, it can’t be indecent exposure unless it takes place in front of a live person or persons, Beard said. “You’ve got to see it with your own eyes,” not in home-security footage, she said, adding that any change in the law would have to come from state lawmakers.

In the case of the pantless prowler, police “didn’t have evidence of what constitutes indecent exposure,” Beard said.

Now they do, she said. “Now we do have some who saw the guy naked,” his penis exposed, Beard said.

Police obtained an arrest warrant for Soto on Jan. 8.

In the news release, Clayton Police Chief Blair Myhand acknowledged the neighborhood’s understandable frustration and growing fear when police did not make an arrest immediately.

“We truly appreciate the community’s help in bringing this disturbing case to close,” Myhand said. “More and more people are installing cameras on their homes, and the surveillance video is incredibly helpful to law enforcement everywhere in catching criminals. In this instance, though, we needed the law to catch up to technology. For now at least, cameras can’t be victims; only people can.”

Soto was held under a $1,000 bond.