Curtis Mellott, 46, had been missing since the wreckage of the Piper PA32 was found in a field near Graham Tuesday morning.
The Civil Air Patrol found the plane by following the aircraft's beeping transponder on Wildlife Club Road off N.C. 87 between Graham and the Eli Whitney community.
When authorities arrived on the scene, they found a lot of blood in the cockpit but no pilot. The window was kicked out, and there was a trail of blood leading into the forest.
Police say the plane was stolen from UNC's airfield overnight Monday or early Tuesday morning. The plane's owner, Larry Warren, says he saw the aircraft around 9 p.m. Monday on the ground with its doors locked.
"You gotta have a key to get in the door, but once you get in the door, it's pretty much just regular switches," Warren said.
Mellott is charged with felony larceny of a privately-owned aircraft and possession of stolen property.
Late Thursday night Mellott faced a magistrate and was then led away in handcuffs. He is currently in jail under a $1 million bond.
Mellott is scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday at 2 p.m. in Hillsborough.
Mellott has a criminal history that ranges from DWI to concealing a handgun to assault.
His neighbor Janet Shrader says Mellott has always been strange.
"I always thought with all his brushes with the law, and just the constant court dates, he was either going to keep doing that, hurt himself, hurt somebody else or just do something big," Janet Shrader said.