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Niles FOP arson suspect takes plea deal

Published 10:19am Friday, June 22, 2012

One of two men charged with causing a fire that destroyed the Niles Fraternal Order of Police Lodge in March has agreed to testify against the other as part of a plea agreement.

Nineteen-year-old Kyle Allen Kelley, of Niles, pleaded guilty on June 15 and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 9 in Berrien County court.

Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Travis said Kelley agreed to plead guilty and testify against co-defendant Gary Lee Nellans II, of South Bend, in exchange for the prosecution not using Kelley’s prior felony convictions against him in this case.

In June 2011, Kelley was sentenced to 300 days in Cass County Jail and two years of probation for felony counts of breaking and entering of a building, and conspiracy breaking and entering.

For causing the FOP fire, Kelley pleaded guilty to two counts of felony arson, two counts of felony unlawful driving away of a motor vehicle and one count of misdemeanor breaking and entering of a motor vehicle to steal property.

The most serious charge — arson of real property — carries a penalty of 10 years. The other felonies each carry a punishment of five years.

Nellans’ trial is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the South County Courthouse in Niles.

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, a 2005 Chevy, was later determined stolen from a residence in the 300 block of Hill Street, 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.

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