5-Year-Old Paitin Fields' Life Was 'Cut Short Because of a Monster,' Says N.C. Community Leader

"People need to remember, this is one we caught," says community leader Dorian Cromartie about David Prevatte, the 23-year-old man authorities allege raped and strangled his young niece in 2017

Paitin Fields
Paitin Fields. Photo: Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office

Local North Carolina leader Dorian Cromartie was relieved when he heard an arrest had finally been made in the 2017 death of 5-year-old Paitin Fields.

"What happened to Paitin is horrific, tragic, and unforgivable," says Cromartie, first-vice chair of the National Black Leadership Caucus's New Hanover Chapter, whose members have advocated for justice for the little girl since she died.

"We will never know what her potential was going to be or what she could have contributed to this world," he tells PEOPLE. "Her life was cut short by a monster."

On Nov. 13, 2017, Paitin's uncle, David Prevatte, and her step-grandfather drove Paitin, who was unresponsive, to a local hospital.

"I have a 5-year-old that was brought in," a hospital worker said on the 911 call, WWAY News reported. "Strongly appears to be strangulation marks on her neck."

Three days later, Paitin died in the hospital.

An autopsy showed she was strangled and sexually assaulted, authorities said.

On Friday, Prevatte, 23, was arrested in Bayou Blue, La., Pender County Sheriff Alan Cutler announced in a statement.

He is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree statutory rape, and statutory sex offense with child by adult, Cutler said.

David Wesley Prevatte
David Prevatte. Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office

Prevatte was taken into custody in Lafourche Parish on Friday after North Carolina investigators tracked his location to Bayou Blue, Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said in a statement.

"Today's arrest is the culmination of years of hard work," District Attorney Ben David said Friday, WECT reports.

He was booked into the Lafourche Parish Correctional Complex, where he will remain while he awaits extradition to North Carolina.

In 2018, the Pender County Sheriff's Office named Prevatte as a suspect in Paitin's murder, WECT News 6 reported.

"Being that there was only one person of interest, why did it take so long?" Cromartie asks.

"Finding out that he was down in Louisiana is alarming to me," he says. "Was he being monitored? He could have done this again."

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Prevatte traveled to Louisiana after being released from prison in January 2020, WECT News 6 reported. He served approximately 10 months.

In March 2019, Prevatte pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of intimidating a witness, as well as breaking and entering, larceny, and burning a building, the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office said.

Authorities alleged that Prevatte made threats against the lead investigator in Paitin's slaying in a phone call to his mother, according to WECT.

In 2020, Paitin's aunt, Amber Leggett, told WWAY TV3 that she believes her brother is innocent.

"The accusations of it being my brother, I don't believe not one bit as much as he loved that child," Leggett told WWAY News.

She also believes Paitin was not sexually assaulted.

"I don't believe that," Leggett told the outlet. "She was born with birthmarks. They are known as Mongolian spots. They come out looking like bruises."

Prevatte remains jailed while he awaits his next court date. It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

Paitin Fields
Paitin Fields. Facebook

Cromartie hopes that justice will be served.

"I hope there is enough evidence against him to convince a jury for conviction so he can go away and never do this again," he says.

He says he is calling for justice for Paitin — and for other children who are being abused that people don't even know about.

"People have to remember," he says, "this is one we caught."

He continues: "We need to protect children."

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