Man arrested on 13-year-old arson charges

Published 11:22 am Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Adams County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man Tuesday on charges of burning down a man’s house 13 years ago.

The arrest was the result of roughly a year of cold-case work, cold case Investigator Horace Sumrall said.

“While we were investigating a cold case (murder), we got evidence on this,” Sumrall said.

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A grand jury indicted Derbie Dennis Nelson, 44, in March on charges of burglary of a dwelling and first-degree arson.

No bond had been set Wednesday night.

The sheriff’s office couldn’t find Nelson for a while, Sheriff Ronny Brown said Wednesday. They put him on the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, database.

Finally, at the end of last week, law enforcement officials found Nelson through a routine traffic stop in Greenville, S.C., Brown said.

This was the first cold case besides murder cases Sumrall’s office has tackled since it was established shortly after Brown entered office in January 2004, he said.

Nelson, who Brown said had a long criminal record, allegedly robbed a house owned by Leroy Lucas at 9 Lincoln Heights Road.

Nelson then set fire to the building, with 91-year-old Lucas in the house, Brown said.

Lucas got out of the house and survived but has since died, he said.

Brown said he was proud of the work Sumrall’s office had done.

“They all did a good job,” he said. “Nobody would talk to us. (Now), we’ve got a good case. We feel confident.”

Nelson still has to be arraigned, but Brown said he felt he would receive a bond.

Until then, the only cases Sumrall’s office had pursued were cold murder cases. Now, that might change, Brown said.

“This has opened our eyes up,” Brown said. “If we get information, we’ll chase it down.”