Police make arrest in Stowe arson spree

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 4:28 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2021 at 5:12 AM EST
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STOWE, Vt. (WCAX) - Fifteen fires in Stowe in five years, and Vermont State Police say they have now found one of the firebugs who set them. Ike Bendavid has the details on how he got caught.

Repairs are still being done at Stowe Cable Systems after two separate fires -- the latest set last week -- are a part of an arson spree that has rattled the community. “Relieved -- as is the whole town of Stowe I believe,” said Rick Rothammer, the company’s president. “Sleepless nights -- lots of sleepless nights.”

This comes after 62-year-old Jeffrey Nolan of Stowe was arrested Tuesday after he admitted to setting eight fires since March of 2019. In court on Wednesday Nolan pleaded guilty to the eight counts of arson and was released on conditions.

Rothmmer says he installed cameras on the building after the first blaze and they captured Nolan in the act the second time. “Looking at the video, we saw that they were at the back of the building that the gentleman started a fire again,” he said.

After the footage was posted on social media, police say tips from the public led to an arrest within a week. “We couldn’t have done it without the community, it truly helped, said Vermont State Police Detective Sergeant Todd Ambroz. He says Nolan confessed but offered no motive. “He has nothing against any of the businesses or buildings or any of the occupants -- nothing. There was no vendetta. It wasn’t vengeance, it was just random.”

Ambroz says mental health and substance abuse also appears to be a factor and the judge ordered a mental evaluation. “He actually stated his intention was not to hurt anybody and acutely tried to go to buildings that he thought were unoccupied,” Ambroz said.

While authorities can account for eight of the 15 fires set in Stowe, there is still an open investigation into the rest. “There are still seven other fires that we are looking at from 2014 to 2016,” Ambroz said. He says whoever set those used a different method than Nolan.

For now, Rick Rothammer is giving a sigh of relief. “I’m glad that this video helped everybody, not just us,” he said.

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