Man will spend 20 years in prison for setting fire to school - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Man will spend 20 years in prison for setting fire to western Wisconsin school

Justin Nelson Justin Nelson

St. Croix County (WQOW) - The man accused of setting fire to a western Wisconsin school will spend the next 20 years in prison.

In September, Justin Nelson pleaded guilty to arson. Under a plea agreement, three other charges were dropped. In April, fires were set inside St. Croix Central Elementary in Roberts. Damages were estimated at $4 million. On Friday morning, a judge sentenced Nelson to 20 years in prison.

Investigators believe Nelson broke into the school through a skylight before he set the fires. Insurance paid for the school building repairs.


May 2, 2013 - St. Croix County (WQOW) - Charges have been filed in the school arson case in Saint Croix County that caused $1.5 million in damages.

Justin Nelson was charged Friday with arson, burglary and criminal damage to property. Nelson is 24 years old and from Roberts. According to the criminal complaint, Nelson allegedly broke into the school through a skylight. Police believe he stole Adderall and ADD medication from the nurse's office, and several digital cameras from teachers' desks.

Investigators believe he then used fire extinguishers to break into other parts of the school and allegedly started a fire in at least five separate spots. Law enforcement interviewed someone who was at a party with Nelson hours before the fire. She told investigators he left angrily because of an argument, and went in the direction of the school. Officers searched Nelson's house and found several cameras and marijuana. When investigators spoke with Nelson, he told them he did have something to do with the fire, but his memory of events was foggy. He said he remembered walking away from the school with several things in his pockets and remembered seeing smoke coming from the school. Nelson will be back in court on the 13th.


St. Croix County (WQOW) - The suspect arrested for arson to a St. Croix County school has now officially been charged. 24-year-old Justin Nelson was charged Friday with setting the St. Croix Central School on fire. He faces three felony charges, including arson, criminal damage to property, and burglary.

On Tuesday, fire crews were called to the school in Roberts around 4 a.m. It was soon determined it was arson, and someone had broken into the school building earlier that morning. Nelson was arrested Thursday night after an investigation. Investigators say the fire caused $1.5 million in damages.


Press release from the Roberts Police Department

On April 30, 2013, at approx 3:46 AM, a fire was reported at the St. Croix Central Elementary School located at 202 S. Division St in the Village of Roberts, WI.

The Roberts-Warren Fire Department responded to the scene and, with the help of several area agencies, suppressed the fire.

The State Fire Marshal's office within the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), St. Croix County Sheriff's Department, River Falls Police Department, Hudson Police Department and Wisconsin State Patrol all joined with the Roberts Police Department and participated in this ongoing investigation.

Earlier this evening at approximately 5:00 PM, investigators made an arrest regarding this crime. The arrestee is expected to be charged with several State violations by the St. Croix County District Attorney's Office tomorrow. No other information is available at this time.

Roberts Police Chief Daniel Burgess stated, "This is an outstanding example of Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement joining forces to successfully solve this senseless violent crime. I would like to wholeheartedly thank each of these agencies and the community for all of the support."


ROBERTS (WQOW) - Students at a western Wisconsin elementary school that caught fire will be back in class at a new location next week.

The elementary school in Roberts has 1.5 million dollars damage after Tuesday morning's fire. The more than 600 students will resume classes Monday at a former Girl Scout camp. Its about five miles from Roberts, and faculty and staff have a lot to do before Monday.

The buildings have been un-used for more than two years. That means utilities have to be turned on, the water tested, and safety inspections done. They also have to find some way to get internet service.

School officials say no supplies, textbooks or computers can be brought over from the fire damaged school, so teachers may have to get creative with teaching methods.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues into the suspicious fire. Investigators have received about a dozen tips since offering a five-thousand dollar reward for information.

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