Lighter sentence for second FOP arsonistPublished 10:41am Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Twenty-six-year old Gary Lee Nellans II, of South Bend, was sentenced to 32 months in prison Wednesday for helping cause a fire that destroyed the Niles Fraternal Order of Police Lodge in March.
Nellans’ sentence, handed down by Berrien County Judge Dennis Wiley in South County Court, is much lighter than the one given by Wiley to co-defendant Kyle Allen Kelley, 20, of Niles, last week.
Kelley received 66 months, or 5 1/2 years in prison.
Although both contributed equally to the fire, Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Travis said Nellans received a shorter sentence because his criminal record isn’t as egregious as Kelley’s.
Travis told the court Nellans, while awaiting trial, wrote a letter to Kelley asking Kelley to take all the blame. If Kelley did take the blame, Nellans wrote he would take care of the person who snitched them out in the case.
Nellans later wrote a letter to Judge Wiley saying he never meant what he wrote to Kelley.
“This tells me how spineless of a person you really are,” Wiley said.
Nellans’ criminal record includes several alcohol-related offenses as a juvenile.
Wiley told Nellans there are thousands of 26-year-olds who have served their country, some giving their lives, so Nellans could have the freedom “to be a complete and utter failure.”
“You have done nothing in your life except drink yourself into this situation,” Wiley said.
The prosecution recommended Nellans serve 23 months in prison, but Wiley bumped it up to 32 months. Nellans has credit for 90 days served.
The Niles FOP Lodge was destroyed by fire in the early morning hours of March 14.
Upon arriving at the scene, police found the building, as well as a vehicle parked under an overhang of the building, engulfed in flames.
The vehicle was later determined stolen from a residence in Niles earlier that morning.
An investigation found the co-defendants, in an attempt to cover up evidence of stealing the car, set the car on fire and rolled it down a hill where it collided with the FOP Lodge, setting the lodge on fire.
In an interview with police, Nellans said he and Kelley were drinking heavily all day at a party March 13. Both left the party late that night or early March 14 intent on stealing things from nearby vehicles.