HUDSON, Wis. - A 24-year-old man from Roberts, Wisconsin is charged with arson in a fire that caused more than one million dollars damage to the elementary school in his hometown.
Justin Walter Nelson was arraigned in St. Croix County Court Friday afternoon on charges of arson, criminal damage to property and burglary of a building or dwelling.
A criminal complaint issued against Nelson says a witness contacted police after the fire at the St. Croix Central Elementary School April 30 and told them that Nelson had attended a party at her house the night of April 29 and stayed through the early morning of April 30. She said while standing around a bonfire that the suspect had confessed that he loves fire more than an ordinary person should.
The witness also said sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. Nelson got into an argument with other party goers over alcoholic beverages that had been consumed, and that he became angry and stormed off in the direction of the elementary school.
Investigators who processed the fire scene found distinctive shoe prints and two pairs of gloves. They discovered that the arsonist had stolen prescription drugs from the nurses office, and used a fire extinguisher to break into classrooms and steal cameras, electronics and other items.
A search warrant of Nelson's home uncovered a bag filled with stolen items, drugs and drug paraphrenalia.
When interviewed at the Roberts Police Department Justin Nelson admitted to breaking into the school, and said he remembered some things that happened. When asked, he reportedly told detectives "he did have soemthing to do with it, and "I have reason to believe that it was me."
The suspect's brother Mark Nelson told police that Justin Nelson confessed to climbing onto the roof of the school, breaking in through a skylight, stealing prescription medication and other items and then setting the school on fire.
If found guilty on the arson charge Justin Nelson could be sentenced to 40 years in prison.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )