Peeping charges filed against Black Mountain business owner rattle former employees

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
Rob Meyers and Michelle Halstead discovered a camera hidden in the women's restroom at Black Mountain Stove and Chimney on May 23.

Michelle Halstead and her husband Rob Meyers were not prepared for what they would find when they arrived for work at Black Mountain Stove and Chimney on May 23.

What they discovered would alter the course of their lives and lead to six felony charges for Bob Orr, who owns the business at 201 Black Mountain Avenue with his wife Dene. 

Meyers began working at the business on 201 Black Mountain Avenue in 2008. Orr owns the business with his wife. Halstead joined the staff in 2011. 

“I started just answering phones and it quickly developed to scheduling, sales and more,” she said. Though her role was undefined, she functioned as an office manager, she added. 

The couple was working on a Thursday afternoon when Meyers heard a notification from an iPad in an otherwise empty room in the store. 

“I asked Michelle if it was her phone and she said no,” he said. “I heard it again and I assumed that a customer had forgotten their phone.”

As the notifications continued to come in, they located an iPad mini lying on a display mantel. 

“It said ‘Bob’ on it in black marker,” she said. “There was a text at the top but there were multiple notifications that said there was motion detected.”

They believed the notifications were associated with a camera Orr had told them he installed at a rental property he owns in Ridgecrest and opened the images thinking there may be an issue at the home, according to Halstead.

“As soon as we opened the first photo we began taking photos of everything we found because we were terrified,” she said. “The first photo we found was a straight shot of the women’s toilet. The bathroom only has one toilet and there is no stall.”

They were able to locate the camera based on the angle of the 52 images they found of Halstead. 

“We took video of us locating the camera,” Meyers said. “It’s not something you set up in 20 minutes, it took some time.”

The slats of the air vent were bent to accommodate the camera, according to Halstead. 

“There was a hole in the air filter and the camera was placed behind it,” she said. “The filter had been painted black.”

Halstead, the only female employee of the business at the time, said she was targeted. 

“I was sick to my stomach,” she said. “I was in shock and at first I didn’t know what to do.”

Orr called Meyers as he was removing the camera, he said. 

“He told me that what I just found was his and he put that there,” Meyers said. “Then he said: ‘I have issues.’ He said he felt bad and was planning on taking it down on Saturday.”

Halstead left her job immediately, but the couple was in a “difficult situation,” Meyers said. 

“Our boys were just about to graduate (high school) and we still had hoops to jump through to get them off to college; I couldn’t be unemployed,” he said. “Bob agreed to stay away and I worked there for one more week.”

As the shock of the initial discovery began to wear off, they decided to contact the police.

“I knew this could happen to someone else, so it didn’t matter that we felt sorry for Bob’s wife,” Halstead said. “It was starting to eat at me that we hadn’t contacted the authorities.”

The couple spoke to investigators and turned over the evidence they collected on May 30 and Meyers returned to work the following day. 

“I walked in and Bob was there, which was different because he hadn’t been there since we found the camera,” Meyers said. “He told me the police had contacted him and asked me to take the rest of the day off. He texted me later and told me this was ‘the beginning of the end’ and went on to say I’d have no problem collecting unemployment.”

Meyers interpreted the message to mean he was being let go. 

Facing an uncertain future, the couple started a fireplace and chimney service in an attempt to generate income. Meyers and Halstead said they are hoping to put the incident behind them.

“We wanted to get our story out because it’s a small town and we felt like we would rather people hear from us than rely on rumors,” Meyers said. 

Orr was charged with six felony counts of secret peeping into a room occupied by another person using an electronic device. He surrendered himself at the Buncombe County Magistrate's office on June 7. 

When contacted at his business, Orr maintained there is more to the story than what has been reported. He stated that Meyers and Halstead are no longer employed at Black Mountain Stove and Chimney and accused the couple of “using this allegation to extort me and the business.”

He added that he could not comment further on the charges against him at this time.

Black Mountain police are investigating the allegations, which were brought about weeks after the discovery of the camera, according to Detective Chris Kuhn. 

“The investigation is ongoing,” Kuhn said. “It will take time; we’re a long way from any charges related to that.”