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.