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Police Arrest Suspect in Fire That Razed East Lyme Little League Building

Police say they believe Saturday's fire was started by a homeless man trying to stay warm in the press box at East Lyme's Little League Field on Society Road.

 

Police have arrested a suspect they believe to be responsible for a fire that started around midnight on December 1 at the Little League Field behind East Lyme Middle School at 31 Society Road that totally destroyed the press box and backstop.

Gary P. Nelson, 45, of Niantic, was arrested the night of the fire and charged with criminal mischief in the first degree and criminal trespass in the second degree. Although Nelson's address was listed in the police report as 21 Sunnieside Drive in Niantic, East Lyme Police say they believe he is homeless.

The East Lyme Police Department, East Lyme Fire Marshall and State Police Fire Marshall were all involved in the investigation but the arrest came swiftly. Arson investigations can often take months but in this case, police found a bicycle at the scene that they recognized as a bike belonging to the suspect.

Police say they believe Nelson was sheltering in the press box and lit a fire in an attempt to stay warm. Bond was set at $25,000.

Dave Perry of East Lyme Little League told WTNH Channel 8 news that he was disheartened by the loss of the structure, which also contained sports equipment that will be expensive to replace. Rebuilding will require fundraising efforts on the part of the Little League and will take some time, as permits will be needed to erect a new structure.

The town of East Lyme has pledged to work closely with the Little League to help rebuild in time for the start of the baseball and softball season in the spring.     

Bob Bristol December 06, 2012 at 05:04 AM
Sounds like this was not intentional but an accident. Let him go. Recently an attorney was arrested in CT for having a concealed weapon when he went to see the new Batman movie. His charges were dropped.
Jayne Keedle (Editor) December 06, 2012 at 06:34 AM
This is going to sound really cynical, and I apologize for that, but in jail he has a warm place to sleep and three hot meals a day. Not ideal, for sure, but where is he going to go if he's released now that winter is here? These are problems that we, as a society, need to take a hard look at if we're going to solve them. Camping out at the Little League field is clearly not the answer.
Dave Perry December 06, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Initially reported as accidental, it has since been determined that the man intentionally set the fire to burn the structure down. So it is arson. It does point to a bigger problem....homelessness. The two press boxes at the East Lyme Little League complex have been broken into for years during the winter months. Once released, he will probably end up right back there seeking shelter in the one remaining press box. Not sure of how much the ELLL can do but a percentage of money raised to replace what was lost will go to our local food bank or area homeless shelters.
Dave Perry December 06, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Unfortunately Bob it has been determined that the fire was set to intentionally burn the structure to the ground. Not only did he end up admitting to investigators that he did it on purpose, eye witnesses who saw the fire from Rt161 went to the field calling 911. Upon their arrival they reported they saw a man on the infield watching the fire. When they asked him if he was okay he reported stated "I'm just watching this thing burn to the ground." The witnesses stated they felt fearful from his tone and left the area.

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